Friday, June 27, 2008

Do Not Wait For The Bell To Toll

from Jacqueline

The Book Passage Mystery Writers’ Conference began today (Thursday), and I am tired already. But it’s a good tired, the fatigue that sets in after doing a worthy day’s work. As co-chair, I’m back there tomorrow morning, and again on Saturday and Sunday. Our Cornelia is on the faculty, one of about eight “conference alumni” who are here this year on the teaching side.

There are many aspects of the conference that I love, but the best thing is that it is truly all about the students, who by the end of four days of lectures, workshops, practical sessions and “in conversation” debates and dialogues, go home filled with (among other things) resolve to do what it takes to become a published author. This journey is not for the faint-hearted, so I take my hat off to the students. In attending the conference they are making an important statement: I am a writer. Not “will be” or “hope to be” but “am” a writer. They’re walking the talk.

It’s amazing how many writers have had to come to the brink of something untoward or go through a difficult time before they galvanize themselves to write a book. For Lee Child, it was being laid off at work. Check this out, from June 22nd’s Guardian newspaper:

“Fired from his job at Granada Television at the age of 40, Lee Child was suddenly on the scrapheap with a family to support. Refusing to panic, he spent £3.99 on paper and pencils with the ambition of writing the biggest-selling book in the world's biggest market: America.

Thirteen years later, Child reaches the summit today when his 12th novel, Nothing to Lose, starring his anti-hero Jack Reacher, goes straight to number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list, 10 places ahead of Sebastian Faulks's James Bond rework Devil May Care. It is the culmination of a breakthrough year in which he has also had the number one paperback in America and topped both charts in Britain - a quadruple thought to be unique for a crime writer.”

Jeffrey Archer wrote “First Among Equals” when he was absolutely skint and looking at the business end of bankruptcy (known to fly close to the wind, is Jeffrey). I think he wrote it in about two weeks.

I had been noodling around with my first novel for a few months when I had a really bad accident. I knew I needed to finish that book or lose my sanity while off work for months on end, unable to drive and living in a rural area with no public transportation services. But the bottom line is that it took that accident to tip me into a writing frenzy.

So, if you’re an unpublished writer out there, or you’ve always wanted to write that book but didn’t know where to start – take heed. Do not wait until life throws you a big old curve ball before you begin or even to take the next step toward publication. When the universe hits you with a two by four it tends to hurt. So, do it now. Just get in there, get in the game and write.

Or on the other hand, maybe it works to let Fate take a hand. Trouble is, you never know quite what Fate has in store.

And on another matter, I just had to share this with you. Cornelia and I were perusing the shelves of rather old books yesterday (Book Passage sells used books on behalf of the local hospice), and came across a 1936 publication entitled: “Be Glad You’re Neurotic.” We cracked up laughing at that one, and I knew I just had to have that book. So, for your reading pleasure, here’s the first paragraph:

“The prefatory note of a book is always the excuse for its existence. Every author is conscience stricken when attempting to palm off another volume upon an already all-too-patient and always hopefully expectant Public.”

I’ve recently finished my sixth novel. Palming Off is set for next February.

Now, it’s back to the conference ....

Have a lovely weekend.


  1. Sage words, Our J. I attended a 4-day writing workshop at Book Passage, led by Elizabeth George. It was a life-altering experience and so wonderful to be in a community of writers. Have fun!

    What's the name of your new book?

  2. here`s a word from the always hopefully expectant public:

    enjoy the conference.


  3. Someday. Someday I'll break free from pushing books long enough to attend a serious writers' workshop. Until then, thank you for sharing your wealth of wisdom!

  4. from Jacqueline

    It's late in the day, and I haven't been able to check in on the blog due to conference commitments, so thank you Patty, Sybille and Fran for your comments. Patty, the new book is called Among The Mad (sounds like Naked Authors!). And yes, this conference is life-changing for so many writers - you only have to see the number of faculty members who are now established writers who were once students.

    And thank you, Sybille, for your enthusiasm.

    Fran - as they say about so many things, including writing: Just Do It!!

  5. In 2001, I ruptured a disc in my neck and had to have bone fusion surgery. Shortly afterwards (just after 9/11, in fact), I lost my job and was out of work for 18 months (I work in the telecom sector). All of this precipitated my divorce, which was finalized 3 years ago as of last December.

    I haven't yet had any fiction published,... however,...

    I've written more fiction in that the time that has followed than in the time that has passed since I graduated high school, and all the fiction I've submitted so far has received handwritten rejections from well-respected editors in the fields in which I want to write.

    I *KNOW* that my fiction will be published. It's just a question of when. I'm currently editing some short stories of mine while letting an idea I've got for a novel simmer (it's not quite ready to serve yet).

    (On the other hand, I have had several non-fiction articles published.)

  6. The great thing about receiving rejection letters is that you come nearer to the agent/publisher/editor who wants to publish your work. The rejection process is just getting the chaff out of the way. Your tenacity is what takes you to the point where you become a published writer, and the more material you can get in the hopper, the more you work on your craft, study others and keep the faith, the sooner that will happen. Well done - you've given us all an inspiring story.

  7. I lost my job as a copywriter in 1994. In 2005 I sent out this invitation:

    12 years
    5 major rewrites
    4 agents
    3 titles
    and one damn good reason to party.

    The second book is taking more time than it should, but that's OK. I'm writing.

  8. There's a disagreement about rejection letters and whether or not to keep them or to use them as fuel in a ceremonial fire. I kept all of mine because--no kidding--they were hilarious. Each told me so much about the sender. Hey! Maybe I'll publish them someday.