Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Tidal Wave of a Learning Curve

By Laura Spinella

There’s a learning curve to publication; it’s different for everyone. Mine amounts to years of ripples in the ocean followed by one ferocious wave. My first instinct was to yell, “Wait! I can’t swim!” I don’t know anything about being a published author. Is there a code of conduct, a manual, perhaps? Preferably one with pictures and step-by-step instructions. Which page do I sign, and in what color ink? Does Penguin know how horrid my penmanship is? Didn’t they see my signature on the contract?
Didn’t I?
The truth is I was good at possibility. I reveled in it. When agents’ assistants, gals who are half my age and dress size, emailed me to say they’d love to read more, I’d live off it. Really, there was no need to rush a reply. When responses did arrive, generally in the form of a polite rejection, I knew how to throw a hell of a pity party. I had honed these skills, and not only was I good at them, I was comfortable. I’d just gather the advice and keep plugging along. To my surprise, the advice eventually snowballed. Character conundrums became my own, landing me on the main thoroughfare of careful what you wish for… As I said, I thought I’d sink without knowing how to swim. But like a mutt diving off a pier, I’ve found that I do know how to dog paddle.

Eight hours into publication and the first review was up on Amazon. Really? How is that even possible? Yet, there it was. Or at least that’s what I was told. The fact that it was a good review made no difference. I simply did not want to know. I made a rule that day, if I was to keep swimming there would be no Googling my name or anything remotely related. I kept paddling, through my first book signing in Massachusetts and onto a four-city stop down South. I had the privilege of signing the book on the campus of the University of Georgia, which is the novel’s setting. I don’t think I got it. Not until one of my biggest BFF’s showed up. She’s also a published author (non-fiction) and a most excellent physician. We had lunch beforehand in a little bistro that could have been plucked from the pages of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Plucked had I been a savvy enough writer to include this vintage bistro in my book. God, it could have made all the difference… I digress. Anyway, as I’m vexing over this clear faux pas and an oily spinach salad, Melisa, the BFF, says, “Think about it. A few years ago you called and said, ‘I have this idea about a guy—he’s edgy, provocative… And the girl, of course there’s a girl. I think it takes place in Athens…’ To be honest, I had no idea what to expect or how good it would be. But then I read that first draft, and now look!”

Okay, she forced me to look. It wasn’t so bad, and I didn’t sink straight to the bottom. Actually, it’s kind of cool. And the book’s not even the icing on the cake. I think the story behind the story is equally compelling. As noted, Melisa Holmes M.D. is a published author, spearheading Girlology, which offers educational programs on all things girl. The third book in the Girlology series was released last fall. Oddly, interestingly enough, Melisa and I were roommates (a LOT of years ago) at UGA. To this day, we remain each other’s sounding board. Her steadfast enthusiasm earned her the big shout out on my acknowledgement page. I can’t quote you the number of college roommates and lifelong friends who’ve gone on to become published authors, but I like to think it’s not your everyday occurrence.
Feeling better about my foray into publication, we went on to the UGA signing. Also in attendance was my daughter, who happens to be a freshman at UGA. (Remember, we live in Massachusetts) A little over a year ago, had you asked, I would have said that I didn’t know which was more of a long shot: my Athens set novel making it to publication or my daughter ending up on that same campus. For the record, this is the same kid who, two years ago, was lucky to see the outside of Children’s Hospital Boston—a long story for a different blog. But trust me when I say kismet and karma collided that day, coming full circle.

I’d be lying if I said that I’m comfortable wearing the label of published author. A glance in the mirror says it’s not quite form fitting, in need of alterations, a garment from which I’ve yet to cutout the tag. Yet, I find myself happily answering emails from people I don’t know, perched on the edge of my seat at book club meetings where my book is the topic of conversation. I’m still wrapping my mind around that one. I’ve done better than I imagined at these gatherings. Most people are kind enough to relay positive comments. I shrug at small criticisms, bothered far less than I thought possible.

So I guess this leaves me treading water. The book will do what it will do, and I get, for the most part, to return to the realm of possibility—a place that fits me perfectly. I’m comfortable, happy there, working with new characters that have no guarantee of an ISBN address but the benefit of my complete attention. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe in a year or so I’ll be doing my best Esther Williams impersonation, yelling to Aidan and Isabel, “Come on in, the water’s fine!”

** During the month of March I’ll be giving away two signed copies of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER via my site, http://www.lauraspinella.net/ Leave a comment on any blog and you’ll be entered to win. Check out my interview with Number One Novels, numberonenovels.blogspot.com on March 7th. For more information on GIRLOLOGY visit http://www.girlology.com/. “BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is a heart-wrenching love story that promotes the message that the power of love never fades away… Spinella crafts a beautiful story.” Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The complexity of the characters, and the mystery surrounding them, adds to the suspense… making BEAUTIFUL DISASTER a page-turner…” Suffolk County News

15 comments:

  1. Love this post, Laura, and huge congrats! One thing that was great to discover when I was first treading the same water you are now is how many cool published authors were there to cheer me on and help me learn all the strokes.

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  2. Laura, your road sounds like the path of many of us! Lots of rejection before that first acceptance. And so much other stuff ever-after! I think you're handling things beautifully with such a great sense of humor. And if you ever need a shoulder (or two, or 35) to lean on, you know where to go! You have a lot of friends cheering you on with BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and all the books that will follow!

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  3. I love this post -- it sums up so much of how I've felt over the past few years. And I'll be heading over to your blog to try and snag a copy of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. It sounds wonderful.

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  4. I love this post Laura, so honest and open. I'd love a chance to win a copy of your book.

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  5. Laura, you are not alone. I think most of us feel this way, even after book 2 or even 3. Best of luck with the new manuscript :)

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  6. Judy & Susan, Thanks! I bet we have all felt this way. I'm not sure why (at least for me) it seems so isolating. Thank you, Liz, glad you could relate, and Anita, always glad to see you here! But please do hop on over to my site! Thanks, Maria, We'll see w/ the new ms. So far... so good...

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  7. Laura, I loved your book. Mia and Flynn are unforgetable characters and the power of love to transform lives is a beautiful message. Enjoy your success!

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  8. Sounds like you're doing great. You really don't google yourself? WOW. That takes restraint :)

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  9. Congrats on the book, Laura, and best wishes for many more. When I was traveling with two other debut authors (back in the dark ages of 2003), one of my pals, Deborah Donnelly, used to say this: The publishers are all waiting on the shore while the authors are thrown in the drink. They watch to see who is trying hardest to swim. "Hey, that one has a strong stroke, let's throw her a life preserver."

    So we all just swim as hard as we can:)

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  10. Great post. Thanks for the shout out my BFF! I'm so excited to be traveling this journey with you. Can't wait to see what else is in store :)

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  11. Cindy, you made my day!:) Nope, no Googling, Karin. I don't eat bread or pasta, once you've mastered that, Googling's not so tough. Roberta, hoping I'm worthy of the life preserver! Thanks! Lauren--now that made me laugh. And Melisa... need i say it?

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  12. Laura, I loved your post, and you said many things that I think many of us can relate to... I think we all get that "OMG, I can't swim!" feeling at some point or other on this journey. (For me, it's happened repeatedly. :) Wishing you much success with your debut, and may there be many more novels ahead for you!

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  13. Great post! Can someone write that manual on how to be a published writer?!

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  14. interesting post.

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