Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taking Advice from Rilla Askew and David Sedaris

One of the things I miss most about my job as community relations manager for Barnes & Noble is being immersed in the book community. When I was hired, my dad asked if they would be paying me in books (he knows his daughter well) and my response, "They give me a paycheck and I trade it in for books". During my 7 years, I met and got to know many authors. Some were best-selling authors, some were not but most were struggling, local authors doing their best to self-promote the books they had lovingly written and had published through e-publishers like iUniverse.

I think desktop publishing and "print on demand" publishers provide a wonderful service for the industry, but sadly they have become the vanity presses of the past. Anyone can become a published author......but that doesn't mean they should. I couldn't tell you how many times I would meet with a local, print-on-demand author to tell them my store would not be able to host a book signing for them AND that we wouldn't be able to stock their book on our shelves. Some books were good, but most of them weren't. It was by far the worst part of my job; dashing the hopes of someone's dream to see their book on the shelf of their local B&N. I tried, as gently as possible, to explain the reasons we couldn't carry their book and to push them in the direction of submitting the book to traditional publishing houses if they wanted to go further with their career as a writer.

What does this have to do with Rilla and Dave? Bear with me and we'll get there!

I am writing a novel.

It seems so cliche and that's probably the reason I've not told many people. I think of all the years I crushed the dreams of aspiring writers beneath the heel of corporate guidelines and I tell myself I'm insane for taking on this task. I've become so jaded I think I don't have a story to tell that anyone would want to hear (and maybe that's true). But that's where Rilla comes in! Two weekends ago I heard her speak at the 22nd Annual Oklahoma Book Awards where she received the lifetime achievement award. She spoke of the rich literary history of our state and how each author's writing was a voice of Oklahoma with an Oklahoma story that needed to be told. This spoke to me and made me feel my book was MY Oklahoma experience and it is a story that should be told. My voice is an Oklahoma voice that needs to be heard!

Last night I went to listen to David Sedaris. He was quirky, irreverent, hilarious and inspiring. After he read, he asked the audience for questions. One man asked how many times he'd had his writing rejected before he was published. His answer was charming. He said he had never submitted his work because he couldn't take rejection so he just tried to put himself in places where people would eventually ask him to write something for them to publish. That is brilliant! And seeing as how I was convinced to write my novel by an editor, I feel I'm taking David's advice, too.

I still have snippets of self-doubt as I forge ahead with my writing, but I'm feeling more confident that maybe, just maybe my dream will come true! And maybe someone will want to read my story.

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