Wednesday, July 20, 2016

8 Why You Shouldn't Give Up—Even When That Voice In The Back Of Your Mind Tells You Too


This week we're thrilled to welcome new author, Ashley Graham, as she takes a minute to talk to us today about the power of persistence. Her debut YA Science Fiction novel, ALL THE STARS LEFT BEHIND, releases in 2018 with Entangled Teen.

"I would like to talk about persistence and why you shouldn't give up—even when that voice in the back of your mind tells you to."


As writers, our experiences with rejection seem to feel that much more agonizingly personal. And you know what? It’s okay to let yourself feel, really feel. But don’t let it discourage you, because this industry is so subjective. All it takes is one yes. One yes out of hundreds of nos makes all the difference.


Take me, for example! I did not plan on becoming a writer. Oh, I made up stories—some I wrote down, others were acted out as plays (sorry, sisters!)—but my dream was to morph into a modern day female Daniel Jackson from Stargate. I even started taking the university course that would help me get into Egyptology at the University of Cairo.

"I did not plan on becoming a writer."


Life happened though, and I didn’t follow that dream. I did, however, live in Europe, get married, and start a family. My husband’s job took us from Norway to Los Angeles, where we still live. I spent my days raising our son, and my nights watching Firefly…or Battlestar Galactica…or (insert scifi show title here). Then one day I had this story idea. I jotted it down and the simple idea suddenly turned into a complex story.


My experience from “writer who has NO idea what she's doing” to “contracted author who has NO idea what she's doing” started off relatively well. I wrote a book that I wanted to read; it had a kick butt heroine and aliens and swoony kisses. A girl with a disability who accepted it, proved she’s capable of anything. Including saving the universe.

"My experience from “writer who has NO idea what she's doing” to “contracted author who has NO idea what she's doing” started off relatively well."


I finished it in a month (thank you, Camp NaNo!), including revisions, and was looking into finding an agent when I discovered Pitch Wars on Twitter. I submitted my query, had a few mentors ask for the full manuscript, and was rejected. I didn't get in. And I was going to toss in the towel—then one of the mentors emailed me. She said she didn't choose my manuscript because it was query-ready. She encouraged me to start querying agents straight away.


So, once my list of agents was complete, I queried. I got a LOT of rejections. All of the 127 or so agents I queried said no. (There were a handful of full and partial requests in there, but in the end, they all declined.) Every agent in North America, and the United Kingdom, who accepted YA SFF said no. Almost all of the rejections, whether full, partial, or strictly from the query, said something along these lines: “YA scifi is a hard sell right now, and I don’t feel this manuscript stands out enough to take a risk.”

"All of the 127 or so agents...Every agent in North America, and the United Kingdom, who accepted YA SFF said no."


I. Was. Devastated. Tear-your-heart-out, cry-under-the-covers, never-gonna-write-again devastated. I wanted to send my manuscript to the recycle bin, then permanently erase it from my computer. I wanted to give up. I re-watched every Stargate SG-1 episode. I cried—alone and to my writer friends. I read, a LOT.


And you know, it’s okay. Deep down, I needed that time to regroup. I started writing again, but somehow, everything I wrote morphed into science fiction. Which wasn’t selling now. I hate to admit it—I thought maybe I’m not cut out for the publishing world. Maybe I’m a mediocre writer in a sea of educated literary geniuses, just trying to hold my head above the water. Maybe I should take this experience and file it under “Oh well, you tried.” After all, my day job takes up a lot of time, energy, and patience. Being the primary parent and homeschooling a child with special needs isn’t easy.

"There was actually an earthquake here the EXACT MOMENT I hit submit...I might have screamed (I definitely screamed)."


I threw myself into teaching my son. Then I got an email. It was an offer from Entangled. I completely forgot that I had submitted to them late one night. (There was actually an earthquake here the EXACT MOMENT I hit submit.) I think I reread that email a hundred times before I actually reacted. And every particle around me buzzed with my excitement. I might have screamed (I definitely screamed).


Now here I am, a girl who barely finished high school, a girl with a neurological disorder, a girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing, with a manuscript that will be a book; a real, paper book. In my hands. On bookshelves. If I had given up, I would not be able to say that. And yes, it takes me longer to process and understand things than someone without Chiari T1, but the point is, persistence and perseverance are more than words in a dictionary—they are ways of life.


"Persistence and perseverance are more than words in a dictionary—they are ways of life."


ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Ashley Graham lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. She was born in Canada, has lived in the United Kingdom and Norway, and has worked in busy offices, dusty shipping warehouses, quaint English pubs, and Michelin starred Scottish kitchens. 

Ashley lives with Chiari Malformation type 1, a neurological disorder that causes debilitating migraines, constant headaches, muscle weakness, hearing loss, distorted vision, hair loss, and many more uncomfortable and painful symptoms. She wears a wig, which is way better than her bio hair.

Her debut novel, ALL THE STARS LEFT BEHIND, releases in 2018 from Entangled Teen. 




                                                            -posted by Michelle Taylor-















8 comments:

  1. Great post on being persistent! Congrats to Ashley :)

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  2. Great post and story. It really makes me feel less alone in the publishing world where you hear 'no' as constantly as a heart beat.
    Congrats on the deal! Can't wait for 2018! :)

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  3. Great story. Truly inspiring. I love that the novel is featuring a disabled MC. There are days when I want to give up, and others that tell me all I need is one yes.

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    1. Don't give up your dreams, Stephanie! Your journey might take a different path than everyone else, but reaching your goal is worth the struggles...and you're never alone! *all the hugs*

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  4. Ashley, thanks for sharing your journey to publication. Congrats!

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