I received the email yesterday afternoon. I almost deleted it. I was clicking through all the unwanted spam in my rarely used RoadRunner account when I stopped at the subject line that said, “Congratulations!” I was fairly certain I was about to be congratulated for winning a new pair of extra-tummy-control pantyhose or a free cruise that only required me to sit through a four-hour sales pitch.
But I was wrong.
This one was legit.
The opening sentence read, “Congratulations! Your manuscript submission has been selected for a 2011 Midwest Writers Workshop Fellowship. Nine Fellowships were selected from 98 entries in this competition to attend our MWW Writers Retreat.”
When I finished reading, I cranked up George Michael’s “Freedom” and did a little happy dance around the kitchen.
For a writer to receive anything other than the classic rejection letter — and trust me when I say that I’ve received my fair share — is a huge victory.
I am beside myself.
A few weeks ago, I threw the first 1,000 words of my next novel, “See How They Run,” into the mix and crossed my fingers. Apparently, finger-crossing is the key.
Now I get to spend a weekend in May with an author/editor mentor and eight other aspiring writers to hone my craft and fret about word choice and sentence structure.
I’m over-the-moon excited.
And I’m nervous as hell.
For reasons that only a psychologist can truly uncover, I have a great fear of failure and rejection. You didn’t invite me to your party? What? Am I not good enough? Do I drink too much? Do I say obnoxious things? Do I have toilet paper on the bottom of my shoe? Is there a booger hanging out of my nose?
I like to be liked. A lot.
I like for my work to be liked. A lot.
Writers face rejection every day. It’s a bit easier to take that rejection in the comfort of your own home where you can crawl into the fetal position and beg for the dogs to bring you more Kleenex. It’s a bit harder to take during a group critique session.
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had my work critiqued by my peers. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve gotten to critique. Ultimately, it’s a good exercise, a powerful learning tool. But it’s hard. And I might cry. I probably will cry. Odds are pretty high that snot will make an appearance.
I’m a little fragile these days. All our current life changes have put me on an unpredictable emotional roller-coaster. Chris can attest. He keeps wondering when I’m going to stop crying. “You were fine an hour ago,” he sighed this morning as I broke down into uncontrollable sobs. “You were laughing and joking with me. We drank coffee together. We talked. Everything was normal. What happened?”
“I don’t know!” I wailed. “Sometimes I just need to cry!”
“Sometimes, Honey, doesn’t necessarily mean all the time,” he reminded me.
My brain is a bit overwhelmed right now and crying seems to be my body’s outlet. And apparently, I’m in need of lots of outlet. It’s always cathartic for me to cry, but a bit scary for my poor kids and husband to experience. The dogs don’t seem to mind. The guinea pig sleeps through it all.
Attending a writers retreat in this state of mind is a bit precarious. But it’s also exactly what I need. Because we can’t grow if we don’t stretch, right? We can’t become something we’ve never been by doing the same things we’ve always done. I need to get out of my self-imposed comfort zone for awhile — the one that’s kept my writing at bay. I need to get out of my weepiness and back into my book. My brain has been focused too much on moving, on packing, on making sappy goodbye CDs for my friends, on creating Shutterfly albums so I won’t be forgotten when I leave.
Yeah, it’s time to re-focus.
Last weekend, some friends and I participated in some “research” for “See How They Run.” One of my main characters is a stripper, and I’d never been to a strip club. I can no longer make that claim. I walked away with some great insight, but I haven’t yet been able to write any of it down. I’m still processing. Perhaps avoiding. Most definitely resisting. I can sit at my computer for hours on end and never open the Word file for “See How They Run.”
This is going to make me get back in the game. And I’m more than ready to get off the bench. It may be the fourth quarter, Baby, but I’m going to hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“Table for Six” has been doing remarkably well in sales. And yet, I’m still resistant to marketing it to agents. Fear is a cancerous growth in my confidence level, in my writer’s soul. It’s time to let it go once and for all. Or at least until the next rejection letter comes and I have to re-read this post 253 times to ground myself.
Out with you, Fear! Be gone! I just got a Fellowship, you Shifty Little Bastard! Someone out there thinks I’m good enough to spend some time and money on.