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.
Because my own journey took about ten years.
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.