Sunday, February 3, 2013

February Theme: Writing Life Mistakes and Regrets by Irene Latham

I've made lots of mistakes in this writing life. Most of them have to do with three basic character flaws:

1. arrogance
2. ignorance
3. impatience

I've written emails I should never have written. I've sent in manuscripts before they were ready. I've settled for things in book production so that a book could be released earlier rather than later. I've not taken advantage of opportunities because they didn't feel "big" enough.

I didn't take a single writing class in college. I wrote, so I was writer. I didn't need all those classes. Later, of course, I had to work extra-hard to fit into a busy family life all those conferences and critique groups and other learning experiences.

Once a local library book club chose LEAVING GEE'S BEND as their monthly book and invited me to come to their discussion. The librarian was up-front about there being no funds to compensate me for my time. I had just finished two months of school visits every week, and I just couldn't imagine talking about myself or my book another minute, especially with no pay --so I offered to send them signed bookmarks and other swag... but declined the invitation.

Another time I was speaking at a museum event where kids had been bussed in. We were on a tight schedule, and as soon as I was done speaking, a woman came up to the stage and told me she had brought her ten adopted kids, and, due to a website error, they had missed all but the Q&A of my talk. She expressed how disappointed they were and pointed to them all lined up on the very back row.

Behind me, the organizers were rushing me off the stage to accommodate the next speaker, so I hurried through an apology with the woman and said something lame about how at least the kids would get to meet the quilters, who were also present at the event.

Ten kids! Who wanted to see me! And I didn't even go down or around to meet them.

Regrets, all of them. But do I want to do them over?

No. All those mistakes got me right here, where I am today. If you pull one thread, you risk unraveling the whole thing. All I can do is look at those experiences for what they are: learning opportunities, chances to know myself better, clues about ways I can improve in the future.

And to the woman with the ten kids: if you're reading this, I would love to send you a copy my new book and Skype with your kids. Thank you again for coming all that way, and I'm sorry I was too flustered to see what was most important in that moment. xo


  1. I love the honesty of this post. We all stumble along the way. (I have a master's degree in writing, but I didn't REALLY learn to write until I started getting those incredible personal rejections from editors.)

    1. Thanks Holly. I'm STILL learning to write. Holy moly, it's endless. But isn't that the awesome part??

  2. Love the honesty here. All good lessons.

    1. Thanks, Stephanie. Just finished THE MARBLE QUEEN. You make me want to hunt down a bag of marbles! Well done. xo

  3. Irene,

    You are so brave to put it all out there. Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes a special person to own them. Thanks for a great post!


  4. Regrets always seem bubble up above all else when reviewing the past, but your post also hints at many wonderful ripples you created!

  5. The beginning reminds me of advice I heard from an agent at a regional SCBWI event, when I was Desperately Seeking Agents.
    Don't be too needy, too greedy, or too speedy!
    Love this and hope you had fun in Como last week!