Friday, January 21, 2011

When the Lucky Planet Jupiter is Dominant in Your Writing Career House

I’m a fair-weather fan when it comes to astrology— I only take it seriously when my horoscope predicts good things to come. And an analysis I read in late 2009 predicted that Geminis would have an auspicious year in the career department in 2010.

I have to say that 2010 did turn out to be a satisfying year in my writing life. My second novel, Love in Translation, had come out in late November 2009 so I was still busy promoting it in the first half of 2010. I got to do some radio interviews, bookstore events, and met with some lovely book clubs. I made an appearance at the San Francisco Writers Conference (the first time I’d attended a conference as an invited published author instead of as a pre-pubbed writer with stars in her eyes) and had a fantastic experience. I did a reading at an amazing literary salon in Sausalito called Why There Are Words, spoke at the California Writers Club and was a guest speaker at the Foothill College Author Series. (After my reading I was supposed to have lunch with the college president, but Bill Gates made a surprise visit that day and I got bumped in favor of him—quite understandable!)

And a new career also took off in 2010—as a writing teacher and manuscript consultant. Something I wasn’t sure would ever pan out—making some money from the MFA in Writing I received in 2008—has been gratifying. In 2010 I taught classes at Books Inc. and Book Passage and Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Online Writer’s Studio (and I’ll be teaching there again this year in the Spring and Summer quarters). I also put on my own workshops. I discovered how much I love teaching and have been getting positive responses from my students. This has led to a busy private manuscript consulting business where I help writers with their novels and memoirs.

During this year I was also hard at work on my third novel, which tells the story of a congressman’s sex scandal from 20 years ago and the effect it has on his wife and two daughters. This is all new for me; the book is a departure from my others, and I have no book contract and a new agent. I went through several intensive revisions of this novel in 2010 and I hope to finish up the final draft this month. My previous novels have been modest sellers and I have no idea if my agent will be able to sell this book to a publisher.

The publishing industry has been in constant turmoil for a while and no one knows how it will all play out. I’ve heard too many stories from published writer friends who have gotten rejected by editors because their novels were too “quiet.” Other friends have had their paperback releases delayed or canceled because of poor hardcover sales. Some are having their hardcover deals revoked in favor of a paperback release only. Still others have had their books canceled outright by their publishers before any release.

No, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be published again, but I try to take it in stride. This is all out of my control and I have to keep in mind that it wasn’t so long ago that I had no published novels to my name and had been rejected by every agent known to man. I’m grateful for every success—big or small—in my writer’s life. And I will keep writing because I can’t not write; it’s too much a part of me.

What will the astrological heavens bring us in this new year? I’m not sure, but I wish all my fellow Girlfriends Book Club girlfriends and readers nothing but the best for 2011!

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels Midori by Moonlight and Love in Translation, both published by St. Martin’s Press. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches novel writing for Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio. She also gives her own seminars and enjoys helping private clients get their novels and memoirs into shape, giving practical advice on how to fix problems so they don’t make the same mistakes she did on her road to publication. She is currently revising her third novel and working on a non-fiction book about cross-cultural marriage. Visit her at:


  1. Great post, Wendy! It sounds to me like you've had plenty of success, not only publishing, but using your mad skills in other areas of the trade--something I admire! It is all hills & valleys, but it's still more fun than a flat road! And thanks for the good thoughts in 2011!

  2. I hope your horoscope is right "on the money." (Excuse the cliche.) In the meantime, it sounds like you're enjoying teaching.

  3. Best of luck with the latest novel-- sounds juicy!!!

  4. I like your optimistic spirit and sense of adventure! Thanks for inspiring me today!

  5. Wendy, I'm with Brenda...the WIP sounds juicy! And very timely, too. Good luck with it and with all you're doing! Crossing fingers for you!

  6. I love how you turned your MFA into a multi-faceted revenue stream. I knew you were a smart lady! Rock on.