Redefining Failure

my first book in the
children's market,
released Jan. 2010
As I reflect on the past decade -- which is also my first decade in the publishing industry, as my first middle grade novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND was released January, 2010 -- I find that one of the most important things I've learned or am learning is how to redefine failure.

Like many of us creative types, I am super-sensitive to the world, and especially to failure. I don't like to fail. I don't like rejection. It can make me want to curl up in a hole and disappear.

But. These days I'm aware that a simple shift in thinking can make all the difference. Mistakes are essential to learning. And what good does it do to beat ourselves up over those mistakes? Which is why I am actively working each day to throw out the old language of "What was I thinking?" after making a mistake/experiencing failure, and shifting that to: What was I LEARNING?

my next (9th) book
in the children's market
releasing Feb. 4, 2020
Whenever I remember that mistakes and failure are part of the process, and merely stops along the way, I find my heart and mind open again to the muses. I can move forward instead of getting stuck in the muck. I can forgive myself for being an imperfect human. Side benefit: it's also helping me be more forgiving of other people's failures, too. And that is a beautiful thing indeed! Also: this theme shows up in MEET MISS FANCY (my latest book for children) as well as my next one!

Irene Latham lives on a lake in rural Alabama. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she is the author of hundreds of poems and nearly twenty current and forthcoming poetry, fiction and picture books from publishers including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Lerner, Boyd Mills/Kane. Her books have been recognized on state lists and honored by NEA, ALA, NCTE, SIBA, Junior Library Guild, Bank Street College and other organizations.


  1. It is a wonderful lesson for all of us, Irene. I am one who can fixate on the rejection and allow it to hamper momentum. And, each failure is a learning experience.

  2. YES! Forgiving ourselves puts us in a great place to be more forgiving of others.

  3. I've heard jazz great Miles Davis quoted as saying, "Don't fear mistakes. There are none."

  4. A wonderful reminder about the relationship between failure and success, and moving forward out of the muck! Well said!


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