Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Steering the Course

By Roberta Isleib and Lucy Burdette

Our trusted blog leader suggested that one of the themes this session might be a chronicle of last year's highs and lows. For some reason, that brings nautical analogies to mind--maybe because my new character lives on a houseboat?

I once imagined that the life of a published writer might feel like sailing on the forward deck of an ocean liner--sun shining, glassy seas, a tropical drink beside my lounge chair to toast the newest book. But it didn't take long to learn that a sail on the publishing ocean is anything but calm. One minute my vessel is perched high on the peak of the wave, the next moment she falls with a dizzying drop deep into a trough. This past year was no exception! I'll show you...

TROUGH: After two years of diligent writing, agent suggests the book I finished last year may best be suited for a drawer at the bottom of my desk. Okay, maybe she didn't say it exactly like
this, but I swear the words "reputation" "mine" and "yours" were all used in the same paragraph.

PEAK: Same agent pitched my proposal for the Key West Food Critic mystery series to an editor at NAL. The series is accepted and A TASTE FOR MURDER, written by me as Lucy Burdette, will be published in January 2012.

TROUGH: Trusted writing friend says about my short story drafted for a Mystery
Writers of America competition: "I have to be honest, I don't love it."

PEAK: Same trusted friend offers excellent suggestions for revision. After
rewriting, this same short story "The Itinerary" is chosen for inclusion in THE RICH AND THE DEAD, an anthology edited by Nelson Demille to be published by Grand Central in April.
TROUGH: Editor suggests the name I was born with and have clung to through two marriages must be peeled away.

PEAK: I will be reincarnated as my wonderful, artistic grandmother who died too young: Lucy Burdette.

TROUGH: Every other day it seems we get more bad news about publishing--Borders is in bankruptcy, Barnes and Noble has fired all its buyers, writers are getting new contracts that don't specify there will ever be a "physical book."

PEAK: Writers are writing and readers seem to be reading more, rather than less, whether it's on e-readers or whether it's paper copies.

Personally, I think we're in for some big swells in this business for a while. I keep reminding myself that the only thing I can control is my writing. My plan for 2011? Trim my sails, find true north, hang on to that wheel and let Lucy go.

Roberta Isleib is the author of eight mysteries. Her books and stories have been nominated for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Lucy Burdette's first mystery will be published in 2012.


  1. I loved this! So honest and representative of most author's lives, a balance of highs and lows. Best of luck with the new series.

  2. Roberta, This hit home for me. We all just keep plugging away through swells...and since I know nothing about boats, that's the end of my nautical metaphors. Are you finding true north in CT. or Key West? For your sake, I'm hoping it's the Keys...
    Great post!

  3. I tell myself again and again: the creative process is its own reward. Thanks for reinforcing my mantra.

  4. Thanks for this. As someone who is just 'setting sail' it is good to know I'm not alone and that even established writers experience ups and downs!

  5. Be diligent and keep plugging away (riding the wave). Success won't be measured by the number of readers or books sold, but by how you feel about your work.

  6. I think, in keeping with your theme, you need to christen the debut Lucy book with a bottle of champagne! Anchors away (um, good luck!), Roberta, and may there always be more peaks than troughs. :-)

  7. Thanks for the great comments. It is not so easy to avoid measuring your writerly worth by what's inside, rather than outside...And yes, Susan, champagne! Liz, great to see you here--good luck with your book! I won't make it to your RJ Julia Bookseller signing, but I just ordered the book. It's called Evenfall, for those of you looking for a new author. (And who isn't?)

  8. Ah, yes the ups and downs of the writing life! Enjoyed this post. I could actually feel the rolling waves some seem like the giants in A Perfect Storm. But you, Lucy uh Roberta uh Lucy have a sturdy boat (meaning your writing ability) and can make it through any storm.

  9. Roberta/Lucy...a creative and honest post by either name! May your peaks rise far and wide over your troughs. I am currently navigating the waves:fanfare signing yesterday; hit the pavement today to sign stock copies where the BAM guy said, "Uh, we don't got that book, but I can order you a copy..." Sometimes, the boat runs aground!lol

  10. Yes Maggie, that's what I was picturing as I wrote this--those huge frightening rollers.

    Laura, is there anything worse than a cold stock signing??? We feel your pain!

  11. This post really hit home-- there are so many highs and lows in the writing life! I just know that your grandmother's name is going to give you a ton of luck.

  12. "Personally, I think we're in for some big swells in this business for a while. I keep reminding myself that the only thing I can control is my writing. My plan for 2011? Trim my sails, find true north, hang on to that wheel and let Lucy go."

    SO. LOVED. THIS! Thank you!