I am not my MS or How Disaster Breeds Reinvention

As any writer trying to get published the traditional way will tell you, this journey is not for the faint of heart or the weak of spirit. Writing a book is hard. Revising is hard. Querying is hard. Rejection sucks. True success stories are few and far between.

When you’re in the querying trenches, the term “on sub” has glamorous allure because it’s a feature of that rosy, mist-covered territory known as Agented Authorland. “On sub” is the shining way that leads to the even shinier hallowed ground known as Publishing Contractland. That’s how I saw it anyway.

Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish

Unfortunately, up close and personal, the landscape is stony and littered with carcasses of dead manuscripts and sundered agent-author marriages. It can be a dark and lonely “Land of Broken Dreams” kind of place. Once on sub, you’re supposed to keep your mouth shut, grin and bear it. Gone is the rowdy camaraderie of querying writers lamenting and rejoicing, loudly and often, with others of their kind. Of course, in theory you have your agent to complain to, but somehow griping at the person who saved your ass from the slushpile and is the one most likely to lead you through the wasteland seems ungrateful. Not to mention stupid. What if she decides you’re a whiney-pants loser and tells you to find your own way? It could happen.

Apparently my book’s topic is far riskier than I realized when I wrote it. But I have hope, and a great agent. My ms is with editors. I won’t say how many or which ones or how long they’ve had it. Gag order, remember?

BUT what if I don’t get a book deal for this ms? A disaster, right? Wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, etc.

Loss of groove…

In reflecting on two previous personal disasters, one major and one minor (at least to everyone but me), I have to say sometimes disaster is a blessing disguised in a really scary costume.

Disaster #1. Five years ago I was part of a down-sizing at my workplace. I didn’t see the pink slip coming. That day was jam-packed with shock and devastation. The economy was a shambles and nobody was hiring. I collected unemployment, dutifully scanned employment listings, etc. To make a longish and miserable story short, when I couldn’t find a job, I stopped banging my head against the proverbial wall long enough to ask myself what I really WANTED to do. The answer was “write a book”. Thank you, former employer, for firing me. You have NO idea how grateful I am. Also thank you for unemployment compensation while I got started. And thank you to my supportive-in-all-ways husband.

Disaster #2. I’ve been blonde all my life, every shade from dishwater to platinum. It’s part of what makes me “me”. Peroxide and I have a good working relationship. Usually. But last week, when I colored my hair, something went horribly wrong. The ends turned blue-gray and the roots turned brassy orange. I turned heads at the grocery store and the school bus stop. When I got to the salon two days later, it took two stylists four hours to deal with my hair. Apparently it had schizoid reactions to every tint they tried. One part would turn gold, another green, another grayish purple, or so they later told me. Thank God I was in the sink room with no mirrors. The only color that “took” authentically was red, so I finally ended up a coppery color. All my life I’ve avoided reds/oranges because I thought they fought with my skin-tone. But guess what? I love it! My eyebrows and freckles make sense. My eyes look greener. Maybe I was born to be red.


So, if I don’t get a book deal, I’ll be crushed. But only temporarily. I am not limited to blonde. I am not limited by what editors decide about this book. I am whoever I want to be and I will write another book. Redheads are feisty.