Tuesday, 13 November 2007

No? No? I must be mis-hearing

I asked Phyllis Smallman to write something about her experiences trying to get published. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Phyllis won this years Arthur Ellis Award for best Unpublished Novel - given out by the Crime Writers of Canada. And - the GREAT news is, she's going to be published in Spring 2008 by McArthur and Co.

Here's what Phyllis wrote:

Back in the early nineties I announced to my nearest and dearest that I was going to become a writer. Big mistake! They went from "Oh yeah?" to polite, "So, how's the writing going? Published anything yet?" Those first four historical romances are still sitting on the computer.

I always wanted to write mysteries but thought they would be far beyond my abilities but anyone can write a romance right? Wrong. I don't seem to have a romantic sensibility and they kept slipping over into comic mayhem and death with any physical contact more likely to involve knives and blunt instruments than kisses. No one was sure quite what they were except unpublishable. One agent who asked to see the first 50 sent me a two page reject telling me just how much she hated protagonist. I made a huge paper mache bowl with the rejects. The summer of 2002 I threw in the towel on love and began MARGARITA NIGHTS. As I told my shocked son, "This is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on."

Finally I had a voice and a place I could identify with a little better than England in the year 1297. In the summer of 2004 I entered it in the Debut Dagger in the UK and made the shortlist. Whoopeee! This will surely get me published right? I sent out dozens of query letters to agents, working my way diligently through the alphabet of agents. This past January I received a bulletin from the Debut Dagger saying that Louise Penny had begun the Unhung Authors with the Crime Writers of Canada. The deadline was in 10 days. I also received a call that day that my mother was very ill. I had my printer going like spit as I packed my bag and we dropped of the manuscript at the post office on the way to the airport.

I had also entered St. Martin's Press's Malice Domestic Contest for the Spring of 2007. I made the short list for both contests. I wonder if I've finally set some kind of record, short listed in 3 countries for exactly the same kind of award without getting an agent or a publisher. More query letters went out. Everyone knows you can't get published without an agent. After a long long summer of waiting I finally heard in Nov. that McArthur and Co. are going to publish MARGARITA NIGHTS in the spring of 2008. I've never been very good at math but isn't that about 17 years of rejects?

And by the way, I still don't have an agent.


That was from Phyllis Smallman. Now - if that isn't inspiring I don't know what is! And quite similar really, to my own experience. I always figure the only real difference between me and an unpublished writer isn't talent - it's a combination of luck and perseverance. And, as the old saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Speak to you all tomorrow - be well.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

Thanks for including the experiences of another writer in your blog. Having said thanks, I have to add that writing is one thing that does NOT give me an anxious stomach and a stressed head (unlike that day job). But guess what? Feeling quite stressed after reading what Phyllis Smallman has to say. Doing the math, it's not the 17 years that gets me as much as the 6 years it took a multiple prize winning novel to go from word one to publication. There's a quote -- don't know by who -- tacked up at my writing desk: "The difference between the published and the unpublished writer is the published writer didn't give up." There are other differences -- talent and a good story to tell -- but it's daunting, when good writers have that much trouble getting pubklished. What if they chose brain surgeons that way? Of course brain surgeons don't get to re-write!