Wednesday, November 2, 2011

33 WOW Wednesday: Jo Knowles on the Benefits of the Long and Winding Road

The fabulous Jo Knowles is the author of the young adult novels Lessons from a Dead Girl, Jumping Off Swings, Pearl, and See You At Harry’s (coming May 2012). She has a master’s degree in children’s literature. Some of her awards include the PEN New England Discovery Award, YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, YALSA Quick Picks Top Ten, International Reading Associations Young Adult Choices List, Tayshas List, and Bank Street College’s Best Books for Children (Outstanding Merit). Jo lives in Vermont with her husband and son, and she was kind enough to do a guest post for us today. Once you've read it,  you'll want to go see her on her web site, her blog, her facebook page, and/or her twitter feed. Really.


Why the Long and Winding Road Isn’t Such a Bad Thing After All
 by Jo Knowles

One of the questions I can rely on being asked at any given Q&A is “How long did it take you to get published?” I brace myself for it every time. The worst is when I’m on a big panel and we have to go down the line of authors and everyone tells their amazing success stories of selling their book in one year, or three months, or some other amazingly short amount of time. You can see the hopeful looks on the audience members.  “That could be me!” I imagine them thinking.

And then it’s my turn to answer the question.

And I cringe. Because I know when I answer, everyone else will cringe, too.

Why?

Because my own journey took about ten years.

That’s right.

Ten.

And very few aspiring writers want to hear that.

But the truth is, now that I’ve found my way through the thicket and am more or less able to look back at the pros and cons of such a long path, I wouldn’t trade those ten years for anything.

When I first started submitting my work, I didn’t have a Web site. I didn’t have a blog. I’d never heard of Facebook. Twitter didn’t even exist! And I had only a very small handful of writer friends.

In the years it took me to work on my craft and finally make a sale, I went to countless conferences. I started a blog. I joined online writing communities. I read other writer friends’ blogs and watched them grow. I cheered for their first sales and cried tears of joy when they won awards. I learned about the ups and downs of not getting your book picked up by B&N, and the thrill of making YALSA’s BFYA (and what that even stood for). I learned what to hope for. I learned what to expect. And I learned that if I didn’t get all the things some people did, that would be fine, too. Because everyone’s path is different.

Most importantly, I learned to stay on the road.

Mine was a long and winding and out-of-the-way scenic view road, it’s true. But by the end of my journey, I found myself walking on that road not all by myself, but with a whole parade of caring and supportive colleagues and life-long friends. How much better that was—how much more rewarding and enjoyable—than it would have been to do it all by myself.

I know it’s hard not to get discouraged. I know it’s hard not to compare yourself to other writers who seem to have it all. I know it’s hard some days, not to just give up.

But I really do believe that if you keep working, if you keep learning—if you keep listening and watching and growing and trying—you will find your way. And when you do, you’ll be able to look back at your own special path and know that all that hard work and wandering was worth it. That may seem impossible to believe right now, but you will. I promise. And I’ll be happy to cheer the loudest when you do.


33 comments:

  1. Thanks for reminding us to stay on the road. And I'm glad to know I won't be the only one that is taking a long time following that road. Good luck with your book.

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  2. You're welcome, Natalie! Keep on truckin' ;-)

    Jo

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  3. Big hugs to Jo for writing this post. :D

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  4. *feels guilty that I missed my morning shift of writing*

    Say, your cover looks similar to the one for MATCHED by Ally Condie. The formatting is similar, and both covers feature a sphere.

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  5. No guilt, CO! :-)

    The covers do look similar online, but physically they're pretty different. But yeah, it's always odd when you find out your cover looks like another one. Authors really have little to no say in their covers though. :)

    Jo

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  6. Wow, did I need this today! Thanks so much, Jo.

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  7. You're welcome, Mary Ann! <3
    Glad to help.

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  8. Wonderful post, Jo. Exactly what I needed to hear today :)

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  9. Thanks Kathleen and Trish! :-)
    Jo

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  10. This is great, Jo. Especially for someone just starting out like me. If you tell anyone you're writing a book the first thing they ask is, "when is it coming out?" I just laugh. I think for me, reading authors blogs and hearing different success stories allows me to be more realistic about publishing. I somehow feel a sense of ease about the whole thing. I actually expect it to take a long time. I hope this will soften some of the what is sure to be disappointment when the time comes.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I can only hope I will grow as a writer with every project.

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  11. Ten years, huh. Then maybe my breakthrough is just around the corner. So I guess I'd better stay on the path. :)

    Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story, Jo.

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  12. Very inspirational! Thanks so much for sharing your story and encouragement, Jo!

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  13. Leigh, that's a great attitude!
    Linda, YES! :-)
    SP, you're welcome! Best of luck!!

    Jo

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  14. Thanks once again, Jo. There are days I just want to pull off at a rest stop and stay there. The road less traveled is often the most enjoyable and interesting one! Sheila D.

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  15. Thanks for sharing your story, Jo. It's more encouraging than you know, because although I like hearing the amazing success stories as much as the next writer, I know that most writers end up taking the scenic route, and it's nice to know that it leads somewhere.

    I read so many books on writing that I can't recall where this information came from, but I did read once that the writers who don't make it right away tend to be the ones who produce more books in the end. The character and skills they developed over the long haul stood with them when the book deals finally came through, keeping them going throughout the ups and downs that came later.

    Here's to the scenic route. I'm glad you took it and that you're seeing the success that comes from staying on the road.

    : )

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  16. Brava, Jo! So glad you stuck to your path! Love your books and can't wait for your next! xoxoox

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  17. Paul, You're welcome!
    Sheila, so true!
    Slatts, <3
    Beth, so well said! I love your reply. And I think it's a great reminder that to every writer you reach out to on your path, the bigger the party when you reach your destination.
    Debbi, love you!

    Jo

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  18. I really liked what you had to say about there being a parade of people alongside you as you journeyed on, all of whom were cheering for you the day you got The Call. If I count the time when I wrote the first page of my first novel, I've been at this for six years; this March, it will have been four years since I sent out my first queries. I'm still writing, and enjoying the friends I've made along the way. And I don't dare give up hope.

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  19. Thanks Jeni!
    Count me as one of the fans in your parade! I've witnessed you make friends by reaching out and I know it'll be a big party when you reach your goal!
    Love,
    Jo

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  20. This is great! Yes, it takes a long time sometimes!! I'm on year 10 too, although I started out in the 1990s when I wrote almost in a vacuum--no helpful internet or blogs. Congrats to you for making it on your long journey. And is there really a female FACE in that pearl on the cover?? I'm seeing one!! A face and a little hand...

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  21. Thanks for this encouraging post, Jo! As I travel my own winding road, I try to enjoy every stage -- like, no deadlines! Enjoy it while I can, right? Heh.

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  22. Just what I needed to hear today. Thanks!

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  23. Patesden, Thanks!
    Carol, isn't it great that there's such a supportive online community now? What a difference. And yes, there is a face in the pearl. :)
    Shari, no deadline is a great one! :-)
    Janine, I'm so glad. Thank you!

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  24. This is a very inspiring speech. I always prefer to hear writers who struggled before getting published than the one who didn't. There's a quality, a depth about them that I found truer, more compelling because i guess they found themselves along the way.

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  25. Something brought me to this page today. Yesterday was the worst day ever. One of those, "this sucks and I'm giving up," days. I'm at that part where it's really hard and it does look like everyone is doing better than me. But then I stumble into words like yours that remind me to keep going. Thanks for that. I hope my long and winding path ends as well as yours.

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  26. Thank you, Jo. Just hit the ten-year mark myself (okay--it was six months ago). Appreciate the encouraging post! : )

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  27. Yes, thank you. I feel much better now and more determined never to give up :)

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