In the deep sea of rejection that writing often brings, it sure is nice to get a bit of occasional validation. I’ve been querying literary agents; I’ve received nibbles here and there, a few requests, but no official bites yet. No contract. So, imagine my surprise when I received an email last week saying I was a finalist in a writing contest.
I entered my unpublished work-in-progress, A Night Without Light, in the Writers’ League of Texas 2019 Manuscript Contest, and I was named one of the finalists in the middle grade category. Congratulations to the tip-top winner in our section, Jennifer Voigt Kaplan of New Jersey, and to the other three finalists! As part of this win, I’ll get a special ribbon on my badge noting me as a MG finalist at the WLT Agents and Editors Conference. That’s right … you heard me … RIBBON POWER! I shall wield a heavy ribbon-esque sword this summer, and I can’t wait.
Middle Grade is a genre of writing for children ages 8-12, and as Buddy the Elf would say, “It’s my favorite!” It can be tricky to write because there is such a wide range of reading and maturity levels in this age group. Adolescence is hovering in their future, but they still have an adorable innocence that makes these books so fun to write. The WLT manuscript win doesn’t mean my story will be published — not by a long shot — but it’s a small step in the right direction.
One of my Houston critique partners refers to these kind of honors as “multipliers” — i.e., accolades that help open doors. I love that term (thanks, Sylvia!), and I plan to seek out more such gate passages! And speaking of my critique group, we’ve begun to overflow with validation. Two of my partners were recently signed by agents and another received an R&R, which means an agent asked her to revise and resubmit her manuscript. The support we give each other is priceless, and I’m so grateful to my team (you know who you are).
The drops of validation sometimes take the form of a big bucket! Take it from my author publisher friend, Teri Case. She was named the GOLD winner in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award in the Popular Fiction category for her breakout novel, Tiger Drive. Quite validating when you consider that Tiger Drive was initially rejected by a few agents; Teri rewrote the book some thirteen times before it became a reality. It must be “lucky 13” because I love the story which is based on a family full of secrets and four people who want to matter.
Teri is prolific! She launched her second novel, In the Doghouse: A Couple’s Breakup from Their Dog’s Point of View, on April 16, 2019. A big turnabout from her first novel, this one is based on a dog named Skip and how he helps his master (Lucy) navigate heartbreak as a pack. In the fall, Teri will have the first book of a “cozy” mystery series available with co-author, Lisa Manterfield, and her third book, Imogene, will be released in 2020.
I love a quote from Teri, who sums up this sense of affirmation so wisely: “Every day, over 1,000 self-published books are added to Amazon and mostly from people who aren’t career authors, who aren’t concerned about quality writing or appreciating the value of a reader’s precious time and money. I have to fight the stereotypes that everyday self-publishers create. Winning the Gold Benjamin Franklin Award for ‘excellence in content and design’ has been validating because it recognizes that I am a career author. And the award sends a signal to readers, librarians, and booksellers that I can rise above the noise and will continue to do so.”
Pay attention to your drops of validation, however they might arrive.
And don’t forget to BE AMAZING!