Sometimes it feels like everything takes me a long time to accomplish. Knitting this sweater-jacket took me a year! A story I often tell myself is that things take me longer than other people. But when I’m being more honest I know that often within this are choices that I’ve made. During the year I was knitting this sweater I also crocheted a kippa, knit a cardigan for my daughter, learned how to darn, continued to work on an ongoing not-yet-completed needlepoint project, started knitting a hat and started crocheting a toy giraffe.
Sure it would have gone faster if I’d just concentrated on this one thing. But it suited me to complete several smaller projects while I was working on this larger one. There are several reasons for this:
1. It’s very satisfying to finish something. It makes me feel in control and that I’ve accomplished something.
2. It’s fun to start something new! Choosing colors and patterns for a small project that I know won’t take me too long offers a break from the longer project.
3. Starting and completing a smaller project deliberately prolongs the longer one; it can be bittersweet to say goodbye to something I’ve been working on for a long time.
I wish I could say this is an exact metaphor for the journey of my debut novel, Honey and Me, which I wrote the first draft of 10 summers ago! It has been a long journey with this novel. And unlike knitting a sweater, it hasn’t always been a matter of how much I worked on it or if I put it aside for a little while to work on something else, or that I worked on it alongside other writing projects. Yes, I have been working on other projects which I hope I get to share with readers at some point, but Honey and Me’s journey was mostly not a question of choices of what to focus on, and many aspects of it were far beyond my control.
Which is comforting in the sense of thinking about a writers journey: no matter how much you will it or want it, it is not under your control how long it might take an agent to read your query letter, and if they decide they want to read your whole manuscript, you don’t have control over how long that takes them. When you do get an agent you can do your best to take their suggestions to get it ready for submission to editors, but you have zero control after that in terms of if/when an editor reads your work, sends it to the editorial committee, makes an offer… And even once you get the magic offer, a whole journey begins anew, again with many aspects beyond one’s control.
What you do have control over
But what you do have is control over the quality of your work. Barring life circumstances that might get in your way—health, other jobs (in which I include running a home, raising children, caring for elderly parents…)—when it’s in your lap you have control over when and how long it takes to write, rewrite, revise, incorporate editorial notes. You have control over what you put into it. You also have control over how you try to get it out into the world. No one can see it if it stays as a file on your computer. Sure, you can’t be rejected if you never give anyone the opportunity to reject it. But then of course you can’t have the opportunity for someone to say, ‘wow I love this so much, let’s go on this journey together!’
Belief in your work
Even when I just couldn’t quite get to where I was trying to go in the journey of Honey and Me, even when there were roadblocks, stumbling blocks, dead ends, and scenic routes, I believed wholeheartedly in my story, my setting, and my characters, Milla and Honey. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have had the capacity for perseverance and tenacity that finally getting to see my book about to be published required.
What happens when the sweater is finished?
Now I get to wear it! I can’t wait. What happens when my book is published on October 18th and it goes out into the world—into readers hands? I don’t know!
I can’t wait for readers to read it. I can’t wait to talk about it with people. I can’t wait to go into schools and do author visits and presentations (but oh my god am I nervous about that. Excited! But nervous.)
Will they like it?
My sweater is for me. Someone might see it and compliment it. But basically if I like it and get use out of it, I’ll be happy with it. My book is a different beast altogether. Actually, it’s not a beast, and it’s not a garment either. It’s very much itself: a book.
Making art and specifically writing a book is a complicated enterprise: yes, we write for ourselves, because we have a story to tell, because we have art to make. But we write with an audience in mind. We want an audience. We write to tell readers a story. We write to give readers something.
What if they don’t like it?
What if reviewers say it sucks?* What if no one finds out about it? What if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears?
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if seasoned published authors have the answers either. For me right now there’s this interplay going on between wanting to be seen, and wanting to hide. Wanting to talk to tons of kids and have public speaking opportunities (both of which I LOVE to do), is fighting with the feeling of wanting to pull a hoodie up over my head.
So all I can say is wish me luck and stay tuned! Honey and Me comes out with Scholastic on October 18th 2022 and is available for preorder wherever fine books can be found.
* but OMG, Kirkus has given it a starred review!!!! ⭐️
[this post first appeared on From the Mixed-Up Files… of Middle Grade Authors]