I had high hopes for the Spring Fling Conference, but it was also a last ditch effort. I’m sure this attitude played into the Perfect Maelstrom that Saturday became.
I was tired to begin with. It was a long semester and I still haven’t had my teaching contract renewed. I’m narrating, but I never know if they’re going to call again. And you all know how hard I’ve been trying to promote my work. So I think coming in to the conference, I had a little bit of that Desperation Sheen, which doesn’t make me shine so much as make me seem oily. I don’t know what’s happening in my career right now. Not at all. And everywhere I turn it feels like I’m just not quite good enough. It’s a really heavy weight to carry around.
The workshops offered little new information to me. I’ve heard it all before. Some of it I’ve even taught. And somehow people were coming to me and asking for advice: “How do I pitch?”, “What if I say…”, “How do I finish my book”... and then after finding out I narrate “Oh! I’d be a great narrator! How do I get into that?” Sigh. (One woman even wanted the company's name and contact information and I just said "Good luck to you".)
I got crabby. It’s true. I got really crabby and I got tired of talking about writing and craft and how to get published because I DON’T KNOW. They say write what you love, don’t write to industry trends, but when I take in my work, they say it sounds great, you have a great voice, but this doesn’t really fit our market right now.
After crying in my pitch session…
Wait. Let me backup.
I pitched to Harlequin because it’s a big house and Foodies would fit as a soft romance (I thought). So I pitched to an editor there and knew almost as soon as I started reading, that she wasn’t clicking. Then she said: “I mean, it sounds like something I would read personally. It sounds very indie. It’s not a fit for us but…have you considered an online publisher?” The castle within me closed shut fast, but not before the tears started flowing. She tried to give me her card saying “If you have anything else…” but she was being nice, and the point is THIS IS IT. “Foodies” is it. There are no more romcoms after this one. This pitch was THE LAST PITCH. I’m not doing this again.
So. After crying in my pitch session, I rushed off to the author book signing while doing one of those things where you try to force the tears back in your head with the palms of your hands. I was late because my pitch was at the same time as the signing. By this time, all my free swag was gone, so I just sat down at my table with my three titles. I was sharing a table with a woman who wrote a cute looking book (big publisher and shiny) called something like “The Real Mr. Darcy” and how can “Pepper Wellington and The Case of the Missing Sausage” compete with that?
What was humiliating was that she had a line of people to buy her book, in fact, she was about to sell out. And I was sitting there with nothing and no one. The final straw for me was when a woman I talked to quite a bit about my work and she’d said “Oh, I can’t wait to buy your book! I’ll see you at the signing!” bought the Darcy woman’s and not mine. And then she gave me one of those soft, sad smiles.
Okay. I’m probably projecting. Anyaway. I can’t really blame anyone, except maybe myself. My book covers aren’t the quality I’d like. Or maybe it’s the titles themselves. Or maybe it’s just my writing. And maybe it’s that the books LOOK like what they are: self-published or from a small online press. Choosing between that and a slick shirtless Darcy? I’d pick Darcy every time too.
After the woman left with her stack of books, I just thought “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do this anymore.” So I left. I left my books there, I got out of the conference, packed my bags and I left the hotel. By 8:30 I was home. By 9, having a drink with Kealoha and friends. By 10, I was snuggled in Kealoha’s arms and felt safe again.
The experts can say write what you love, but if no one wants to read what you love to write, and your goal is also to actually BE read…then it doesn’t make much sense. And I'm just plain tired of fighting to get noticed. I'm not cut out for it.
I’m not throwing a tantrum here. I’m really not. Yesterday was just a turning point in my career. Or my hobby. Whatever. Something snapped. Right now it feels broken, but this could be a good thing. Because I learned a few things:
1) I don’t write romance. I thought I wrote romance but my books don’t follow the formula. I hate those plots with the two characters separated by insurmountable odds (they hate each other; she’s a virgin and he’s a player; she’s a pregnant widow and he’s a lawmaker who signed an order to start the war). Those plots drive me INSANE. So I don’t use them.
2) I don’t read romance. I narrate romance, but when I read what I want to read, it’s usually literary fiction or book-club type stuff. I also read mysteries. But I don’t read romances.
3) My characters are aging with me. In romance, they’re all in their twenties and early thirties FOREVER. Every character. And they’re all beautiful. My characters are awkward, broken, and sometimes not even attractive.
4) I want to branch out. Everything you write is a BRAND they say, and I tried that route. Now, fuck it. I’ll write what I want when I want.
I still want to be published by a big publisher, but it’s possible that I’m like a million hopefuls out there who want the same thing. So I’ll just keep wanting.
“Foodies Rush In” is still going to be published, but we’ll probably do it ourselves. I’ll get it out there and offer it for as little as I can (or free if possible) just to get it out there. I loved writing it and while it’s not a typical romance, it was a story that made me feel good to write…because the main characters aren’t perfect and the only real conflict they have in finding a good partner is the truest conflict I know: they don’t believe in themselves.
It’s something I’ve struggled with much of my life, and this whole road to being published has pushed on that tender spot of “Am I Good Enough” a little too hard and too long. It’s pretty much a deep bruise.
I do believe in myself, but I just don’t have the energy anymore to try to push my work on people. You’ll either come to it, or you won’t. It will be published, or it won’t.
I’ll keep on writing. I always do.
So. Sucky experience but big epiphanies, and I’m home now. That’s a good thing.
Today, Kealoha and I will go out for breakfast. We’ll see a movie. Maybe the kids will come over. I’ll prep the next audiobook. I’ll cook. It will be a nice day.