Wednesday, January 12, 2011

15 WOW Wednesday: Jessica Tudor on Redefining Success

Today's post is by Jess Tudor, who has been such a great contributor on Adventure's in Children's Publishing. We are delighted to be able to say that she is now represented by SuperAgent Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Lit. Find her at Must Love Books, or more frequently, on Twitter.

Redefine Success

by Jessica Tudor

I had a lot of trouble deciding how to approach this post. So many different things I could explore. In the end, the topic was handed to me. My mother died the week before Christmas, and grief has a way of prioritizing things.

How do you define success? Getting an agent? Seeing the deal in Publisher's Marketplace? Holding the book in your hands? Or maybe you dream even bigger - NYT list and world tour. Maybe then you'll consider yourself successful. The problem with success is that it's a lot like money - Rockefeller said he'd have enough when he had just a little more. We reach a milestone only to set a new one.

We're never happy.

I've cried a lot this week, and one bout was when I realized I wouldn't get to share MERCY - or any of my books - with my mother. She'd never get to read it. And that devastates me. My mom never read anything I wrote - I would never share it because it wasn't "ready" and I was embarrassed. But she supported me from the beginning. When I was in high school and said I wanted to be a writer, she never said, oh do something else you'll never make any money. She never doubted I would make it.

Now that I'm about to go on submission - and whether or not the book sells is beside the point, really - I've realized "making it" isn't all it's cracked up to be if I can't share it with the people I love.

Celebrate the small steps. You never know if it'll be your last triumph, or the last one you can share with someone.

And more importantly, live. Writers are overprotective of their solitude for good reason, we need it or we don't get anything done. We have to be willing to say no to people more often than we may like, and that usually takes the form of having no social life. Don't go overboard. Not only do we need life to recharge, but when all is said and done, no one ever said, I'm sorry I took that extra hour to call my mother today, or, gee I wish I'd gotten in another ten pages instead of going for that walk with my husband.

Our work matters, but our people matter more.

So I propose we get out of our milestone method of thinking about success. Are we loved? Do we find our work fulfilling (in and of itself - the writing, not the recognition of it)? Have we shared our achievements in a satisfying way? Everyone knows it's lonely at the top, but maybe it's less because other people don't fit up there with you. Maybe it's because we weren't supposed to be climbing mountains. Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen farther it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." I like that. Because if we are standing on the shoulders of giants, there is someone holding us up. We are not alone.

Our traditional definitions of success aren't bad ones. Traditional success can be shared.

But, also like money, true success lies more in what you do with it and how you respond to it. Don't be caught up.

"The world is but canvas to our imaginations." - Henry David Thoreau
Must Love Books:


  1. Jess, congrats on getting an agent and so sorry about your loss. I also had a big loss--my sister died 3 years ago--and it's helped me too redefine success.

    I so agree that it's important to measure the steps of success in small steps. It might even be just writing regularly. For me, I'm celebrating these small steps more rather than feeling on a deadline to get published. I squeeze in writing between working full time and a family. And my family is important and won't be here forever. I will sacrifice some time away from them to follow my dream, but spending time with them is important too.

  2. I think it is a very brave thing to come off a tragic event so recently in your life and be able to speak so eloquently. I think you have made very valid points, writers value their solitude to the point of isolation. You have reminded us the value of friends and family in this journey.

    Thanks for sharing your story despite the pain.

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, Jess. And thank you so much for sharing your experience in such an inspiring way.

  4. What a powerful post. Thank you for sharing with us...this definitely has me doing some deep thinking about what success truly is.

  5. Great post, I especially liked this:

    "Celebrate the small steps. You never know if it'll be your last triumph, or the last one you can share with someone."

    Beautifully put.

  6. So true, Jessica. I'm very sorry to hear about your mom. There's no good time to lose someone we love, but it's especially tough around Christmas. Thanks for sharing your heart. : ) Beth

  7. Such a beautiful post, Jessica!! I'm so sorry about your mother. I'm sure she would be very proud to know you are following your heart. Good luck on submission - enjoy the ride.

  8. Jessica, I am so sorry for your loss. Suffering such a deep loss does bring about wisdom though, so thank you for sharing yours with us. This is such an important message. I hope I can carry it with me and do it justice.

  9. Something like that does put it all into perspective. I'm sorry for your loss. But, congrats on signing with an agent and best of luck on submissions!

  10. Jessica, you have written a very powerful post. And your willingness to reflect during this time is nothing short of amazing.

  11. Ah, this is so bittersweet; thanks for sharing this with us. You bring up great points. Write, but not to the extent that it ignores relationships in our lives, because writing success isn't everything.

    My mother has heart problems, and she'd never read any of my novels. That was one reason I created my POD novel, just in case it took years and years for me to get traditionally published. I'd never shown her any of my writing because I was afraid she wouldn't like it. I let her read the 1st copy to "proofread" it, so she wouldn't have to say she liked it if she really didn't. But she liked it! Whew, a relief. And a delight. :)

  12. Congrats, Jessica, on landing Suzie as your agent. What a wonderful post. Thanks for reminding us what's really important. *hugs*

  13. This is such a great post, and I think you've got the right of it. I'm very sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing the realization that came at this difficult time.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  14. What a touching post! Thank you so much for sharing this. It definitely makes you think.

    (And of course, congratulations on snagging your fab agent!)

  15. This is a wonderful and heartbreaking post. Congratulations on finding an agent and thanks for sharing something so personal and meaningful.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)