Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nov. Theme: Doom, Despair, and Disappointment (A Thanksgiving Story) by Trudi Trueit

I was sorry to learn Random House was not offering its annual Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel this year. Not that I ever won it or anything. Still, it did have an impact on me. If it wasn't for that particular contest I might not be a writer today. In the days before the internet and email, I’d send out queries to agents and editors via snail mail. Then I’d wait, wait, wait for the SASE’s to return, each holding a cold, cruel form letter. Or more painful yet, the dreaded form postcard.

Dear Writer,
I am sorry to inform you, your manuscript is:
___ So terrible my intern won't even finish it
___ Lost on the subway between E. 19th St. and E. 42nd St.
___ Funny and not in a good way
_X_ Holding up the left side of my desk

(I have gotten all of these, by the way).

I would send my queries out in batches of 25. In fact, I sent out so many queries that now, I can attend any SCBWI conference in the country and point out, at least, three people on the dais that have rejected my work at one time or another. (I really wish I was kidding about that).

Anyway, one day, while perusing my copy of Writer’s Digest magazine, I saw an announcement for the Delacorte Press YA contest. I was just finishing my first YA manuscript, but wasn’t sure I should enter it. This rejection, I feared, just might crush my spirit beyond repair. I had already tried, unsuccessfully, to publish three middle grade novels. If I tried again, and failed again  .   .   .   

I entered the contest. And lost.

I was beginning to wonder if I just didn’t have “the stuff” to be a writer. Maybe it was time for me to pack up the dream and move on. Then I got a letter in the mail. It was from an editor at Random House. She had read, and liked, my manuscript. She thought it had potential. She wanted to work with me on it with an eye toward publication. I was overjoyed!

Psych! My bliss was short-lived. Within a few months, I got another letter saying the editor that had shown interest in my work had left RH and nobody there wanted my book anymore. 

Back to square one. 

"Julep O'Toole" art by Dan Yaccarino
Well, not exactly. Things had changed. After all, a well-respected editor had seen potential in my work (I had the evidence in writing). No one could take that tidbit of encouragement from me. It was the slimmest thread of hope, but I clung to it. It kept me going. I kept writing, kept learning, kept sending out my work and, in another few years, the break I longed for, finally, came with my Julep O’Toole series.

As much as I hate disappointments, they always seem to be teaching me things (and boy, is that annoying). They teach me to be stronger and more resilient. They remind me to improve my skills and hone my goals. They whisper in my ear, “Persevere, Trudi, persevere.”

And so, with a grateful heart, I do.

I hope Random House decides to bring back it's Delacorte contest for a first young adult novel. I never did publish anything in the YA genre and who knows? This time, I just might have a shot at winning. Or maybe not. But no matter what happens, I'll be okay. My spirit isn't so easily crushed these days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 comments:

  1. Love it, Trudi! It's amazing how a word of encouragement from the right source can re-light the fire. Congratulations on your series!

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  2. Thanks, Tracy! My experience serves as a reminder to me that I can do the same - by a simple word or deed, I can stoke the fire in a fellow writer.

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  3. Trudi, I entered this contest several times myself! The last time I entered it, my book was returned with a note stating that the work had "promise." About four global revisions later, it turned out to be the first book I ever sold, A BLUE SO DARK. It was the note that inspired me to really focus on that book, work on it harder than any other manuscript I was polishing at the time.

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  4. Holly, thanks for sharing that wonderful story! I think contests are a great way for writers to get their feet wet. And when we get the reassurance that we have "promise," it can make all the difference. I'm so glad you forged ahead. Look at you now!

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