Hope Restored


As our regular readers know, our amazing critique partner and blog mate, Joanna Shupe, has come into some major success recently. As a result of her recent final (and now WIN!!!) in RWA’s Golden Heart contest for unpublished authors, an editor who had her book on his desk got motivated to read it in a hurry… at the same time, she got an offer from another publisher. Joanna ended up with a three-book contract, including print, from Kensington! At RWA’s National Conference she rubbed elbows with the other Golden Heart finalists and with the Kensington authors, not to mention she will now be a PAN member. Although her historicals won’t hit shelves until early 2015, worlds have opened up for her already. Given Joanna’s stellar writing, fab stories, and serious work ethic, I guarantee this is just the beginning.

Why, you wonder, is my blog post about Joanna? Because, dear readers, her success has renewed my own hope. Joanna landed an agent about a year before me, so not only has she been submitting longer, she’s submitted to more places than I have. Yet every one of her rejections and my own seemed to lump together in my heart. Just when the both of us really started to wonder—maybe not about quitting (well okay, once or twice it crossed my mind), but about possibly giving up the original dream by pursuing publication through a less traditional avenue. An option that’s viable, though still terrifying, these days. Then, viola, success for her! From her dream house, for three-books, not just one, and even for print, which let’s face it, seems a rarity these days for a new author.

We all know the stories. J.K. Rowling was rejected by twelve publishers and was told by the editor that did finally contract Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone to get a day job, as she wasn’t likely to make any money publishing children’s books. By 2008, she was ranked as the twelfth richest woman in the UK. Vince Flynn’s recent obituary claims he suffered sixty (sixty!) rejections of his first novel Term Limits before he decided to self-publish and sell books out of his car. His fourteen novels are, of course, regulars on the bestseller lists. John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was apparently turned away from twenty-eight publishers, before an unknown press agreed to a modest printing. Dr. Seuss—well, I could go on all day about once-rejected authors who stuck with it and found outrageous success. But the truth is, that although I know logically that they were regular Joes and Janes, I somehow can’t really relate. For me, their names are inextricably linked to the words Famous and Hugely Successful.  I didn’t know them at the bottom rung. I didn’t complain with them, hug them, or imbibe with them.

Some of my other blog mates (you know who you are!) are also finding success, and I could not be more thrilled for them. Each gain for one of us feels like a boon for us all, and reminds me of what’s possible. But Joanna’s situation, because her path has been until now, so similar to mine (an agent, traditional submissions, rejection upon rejection, and the emotional struggle of writing when your confidence is constantly undermined from that) really hits home for me.

But now, because of Joanna’s situation, my hope has been restored. Good writing is recognized. Success does eventually find those who refuse to fold, who continue to submit. Our common dream can happen, it does happen. There’s proof, even way down here at the bottom rung.

So, keep at it, as will I, and please do share: What, or whose, success stories do you cling to? What keeps you putting words on the page, keeps you submitting in this tough market? Thanks!

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  1. Oh, so true, Jenna! It is easy to get discouraged when the rejections come in. In my own case, I add the frustration of not being able to be as productive as I’d like, so I can get my writing out there to begin with. (Although on the flip side, at least I know that is partly to blame for the fact I’m not published yet.).

    Years ago, I wrote children’s books and had an agent who was marketing my middle grade mystery. That novel never got published, and it was hard getting rejection after rejection. It didn’t make me quit, but it made me realize my time limitations at the time, with two children under three who kept me on my toes.

    What gives me hope, besides, as you say, the success of our fellow Violet Femmes, is that most authors do not sell their first book, or even their second. Writing is a craft, something learned and honed. Very few come out writing the perfect book the first time. Even those who do suffer rejection. The author who comes to mind is Kathryn Stockett, whose debut novel, The Help, was rejected by 60 agents before someone finally agreed to represent her and sell her book. We all know where that one ended up.

    So keep that chin up, and that hope shining in your beautiful eyes, Jenna! You are a fabulous writer, and your day will come. I just know it!


    • Thank you, Jaye! You brought a smile to my face. And I must repay the compliment, because you are a fantastic writer, too! Someday, it’ll happen for both of us. You are so right about the time limitations being a huge hold back. I, too, have that issue, and did put this dream on hold for many years when family life had to come first. It’s still not easy–like you, I can’t yet devote as much time as I wish I could, though I sure do try.
      The Help is one of my favorite books of all time! So well done. Just mind blowing that so many agents passed…Thanks for commenting, Jaye!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  July 23, 2013

      There is always something new to learn about this group. I would LOVE to read your MG Mystery one day, Jaye!


  2. Congrats to Joanna! I knew she would succeed! You will too Jenna!

  3. Thank you for the kind words, Jenna!

    And one thing we’ve learned over the last few years is that there’s no ONE way to success. Some authors are going digital. Some authors are self-pubbing. Some authors are putting out serials on WattPad and landing publishing deals. Each of us has to find his or her path, and you WILL find yours. You’re an amazing writer and I’m glad that my recent windfall after a year of self-doubt would give any discouraged writer hope.

    What resonated with me was one thing Nora Roberts said to the Golden Heart finalists, which was, “Okay, you’ve written one great story. Now go and write something else great.” Of course I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. Kristan Higgins also said something that any writer who has doubted herself will appreciate. She has a post-it note on the wall of her office that says, Do your best, just for today.

    Everyone battles the doubt. Everyone wonders what the future holds. But only you can finish your story. Hang in there! Keep plugging away at that second ms until you make it your bitch. I know how hard it can be…but you can do it!!


    • Great advice, Joanna, from Nora, Kristin, and You! : ) And all so very true! I know I can do it, I know it’ll happen some which way, some day–not that there’ll be any less emotional pressure or doubt then, it’ll just be different–but Patience is Difficult! Stories like your help, as does good advice! Thanks!

  4. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  July 23, 2013

    Hi Jenna,

    The first thought that came to mind while reading this was …”You are next!”

    Honestly, though, we all know rejection is the name of the game and it’s so easy to get down. I’m glad to see your burst of renewed energy from Joanna’s success. I’m feeling the same and have come to realize when it comes to my YA’s I’m going to have to take the road less traveled. It seems the industry is shy about taking chances on something that doesn’t exactly fit into a perfect box or category, and how many of them are kicking themselves for having passed on the unique story of a Boy Wizard, or for passing on a Courtesan Duchess? Hmmm?

    All we can do is keep plugging along, keep writing because it’s in our hearts, in our blood, and let’s face it, it’s the only way to stop those voices from talking in our heads!


  5. So true, RoseAnn! There are no guarantees, and the road less traveled is at least paved these days. I do get so much joy from writing, and that’s important to remember, regardless of the winding path, steep hill, or blown out tire! ; )

  6. During the first online romance writing class I took, I remember the instructor saying to be prepared for rejection. For every author who got published 1-2-3, there’s probably 50 authors who took years and several manuscripts to make it. It’s very disheartening to feel like you’re so close, only to get another rejection. It plain ol’ sucks. The fact that we’re all making progress brings a smile to my face. I believe everything happens for a reason and that when it’s meant to happen, it will happen. And it WILL for you, Jenna!

    All of us have grown so much as writers and I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished. When I find myself thinking negative, and yes, even I do, I force myself to think of the positive. It’s easy to let the negative eat at you, but we won’t let it beat us down. Hugs!

  7. Maria, I agree, the progress in our group is amazing. In just the short time I’ve known you all, think of all the good things that have happened. And I absolutely believe that we are stronger together than we would be individually. Truly blessed, we are, to have found such supportive groups: our blog mates, larger writing chapters, and rwa, too! I feel very, very lucky. Hugs to you, too!

  8. Hi Jenna, I loved your post and that fact that you have a renewed outlook on getting published. You are an amazing writer, like Joanna, like our fellow blog mates. From my point of view, it was difficult being the first of us to be acquired (though Joanna will be the first PUB author). Difficult because I knew how amazing you all are and know how hard you are working toward publication. One thing I can tell you is that when your time comes, it is going to happen quickly, so fast it’ll be hard to wrap your head around it.

    And I CAN’T WAIT for that day to happen to you. Soon. The world needs to read a terrific story by Jenna Blue.


  9. Thank you, Michele! That’s the other thing: every single day, a writer’s emotions go through an entire flux: cycling around confidence, worry, doubt, hope, over and over…and support and cheering from ours writing pals seems to always arrive when one needs it! I’m sure it is hard to be the first, and it’ll be hard to be on the tail end for different reasons! ; ) Just a tough biz all around! Thanks!!!!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  July 25, 2013

      Holy cow, Jenna…you just described my day as a writer! 🙂 Tough all around, for sure!


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