Sunday, March 13, 2011

To Tell or Not to Tell, That Is the Question

Last night, my very well-intentioned friend A introduced me at her party as a "writer," the "creative one in our midst." This has happened before, I am sorry to say; in fact, A has actually gone so far as to introduce me as an author, which is the last thing this unpublished novelist wants to be introduced as. You can imagine the questions that follow:
"Oh, are you published?"
"Have I read anything you've written?"
My answers?
"Not unless you are an avid reader of Leatherneck Magazine."
Actually, what I usually say is some awkward form of, "Not yet, but I'm trying to get a literary agent," which I fear to the average person who knows nothing of publishing sounds humiliatingly pathetic. Doesn't everyone know some schmo who wants to get a book published? It's not like I can say, "I've been rejected by thirty-some agents, but I've gotten some really great rejections!" and expect them to understand that that's actually a GOOD thing.
So, what do you do? As an unpublished author, do you tell random people you meet that you're a writer or not?
It's tough in my case, because while I was at least a journalist, I am currently nothing. Yes, I'm a stay-at-home mom, which every mother in the history of the universe knows is the hardest job in existence, but even to me that doesn't sound very impressive (especially when you're in a room full of people who work at the Pentagon, or for the CIA, or for the freaking FBI, or in the case of one woman I met last night, as a liaison between Afghani civilians and the U.S. military who has recently returned from 2 years in the Middle East. I just can't compete with this stuff!).
On the drive home, I told John about what had happened, and how while I know it's not a good reason to want to be published, how truly wonderful it would feel to say, "Why yes, I AM a published author. You may have seen my bestselling novel on display at the airport Barnes and Noble." Or at the very least to be able to say, "Not yet, but I just landed an agent who is currently shopping my novel to several editors." Right now, I just feel like a big fat failure, and it stinks!
There may be no truer cliche (at least in my experience) than "When it rains it pours." Two weeks ago I felt like something was happening with my novel, but last week was complete and total radio silence. I even sent out a couple more query letters for good measure, and I just keep reminding myself that Sara Gruen had over 120 agent rejections...
Meanwhile, I am slowly plodding along with BDC, although I never seem to get through more than a paragraph or two without having to research something totally random like ragtime jazz or vintage BMWs. This week the focus will be on John. He has his Foreign Service Orals on Friday, and I don't think either one of us will be able to breathe until Saturday. Hopefully the new raccoon cufflinks I got him from catrabbitplush will prove to be his lucky cufflinks.

Here's hoping for great news this week on all fronts! Good luck honey! I know you can do it!


Margot said...

Mara! So proud of you for taking your publishing online lady! You know you may not like what I'm about to say, but the feeling of failure is a good feeling to have only because the success feels so much sweeter in its aftermath. This is your unique journey and story and it's aweaosme that you allowed us to peek inside.

Keep going Mara! Whatever you do, don't stop writing girl. Even if you're mad, be mad in words :) Be happy with words, be angry with words, be corny with words. Before you know it, you'll have your next novel :)

So awesome that your husband made it to the orals. That's no mean feat.

Great job again Mara :)

Mara Rae Rutherford said...

Hi Margot! Thanks so much for taking a gander :) I hear what you're saying about success being sweeter because of the struggle; I just wish I knew if success was on the horizon! That's the really horrible part of all this, the not knowing if it's every going to happen. But I'm plodding on regardless.
Wish John luck on Friday! This year they added an essay portion after the written exam, and he passed both of those parts, obviously, but the orals have him very stressed out. He's been studying like mad though, going to study groups once or twice a week for several months, so he's about as ready as he can be. Fingers crossed!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mara,

I totally understand the angst! I went to a book launch on Saturday with a bunch of other writers, the majority of whom are either published or agented. I introduced myself as a "wannabe." At least that crowd understood, though. People inside the business know it's a long, long process to publication. Insiders seem to respect anyone who has seriously committed to writing. My students and non-writer friends, on the other hand, ask all of those tough questions: "Have I read something you've written?" "When will your book be published?" To avoid such questions, I've pretty much stayed a stealth writer. I avoid talking about writing to anyone but my writing friends.

Anyway, I have no doubt that you'll get there some day. And know that the people on the inside respect what you're doing. That's what counts, right?

Tell John good luck on his orals!


Mer! said...

AH!! AH! LOVE that you're blogging, er, maybe you've already blogged and I didn't know..either way, seriously social media is amazing and you never know who might be reading. You are phenomenal Mara...amazing, motivated woman/friend/mom/wife/sister and I just know your book is making its way into the right hands!!

Massive hugs! Can't wait to keep reading. Your blog is so cute! so NOT! :)

Mara Rae Rutherford said...

hi lisa! what's going on with your book? i haven't heard anything in a while! are you still querying?

mer!! i just went to your blog the other day - it's adorable by virtue of the fact that it's plastered with adorable soren pics :) you need to set yours up so it sends updates to facebook, or at least sends me an email so i remember to look at it!