The Power of Perseverance

Seventeen years ago I was sitting in my college dorm, fuming at the world because I thought I could write a better book than the one I had just finished reading for class (FYI – I couldn’t. Trust me. That first novel of mine is pure stink). A seed had been planted a few months earlier by a true crime show I’d caught on cable – college was my first experience outside of network TV – so I said, “Screw it, Mindy. Write the damn book already.”

Fifteen years ago I was working part time in retail (at a Hallmark, if you can picture it), reading Euripides on my lunch break and jotting down notes on the Furies as sidebars to a project I’d been reworking, revising, and revamping since my sophomore year in college, titled THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES.

Thirteen years ago I took a job at a high school library, having amassed literally hundreds of rejections for that novel, a handful for the second novel I’d finished, and a deep familiarity with the guy at the Post Office who had patience with me while he weighed my sample pages and put the right postage on my SASE (you old dogs will know what that means).

At the time I didn’t know if I would be able to work forty a week and still write, but I wanted to. When I moved into my new office I printed out a copy of the Rudyard Kipling poem “The Female Of The Species,” from which I’d taken the title of my first novel, and hung it on the wall facing my desk. It was a reminder to persevere, that even though work was done at three I might not be, and that there was something more I wanted to do with my life.

Over time little notes started decorating that wall as well, things I’d jotted down to remind me how to run certain reports, where the I Spy books were on the Dewey, little notes from students, senior pictures, and random things smaller kids would gift me that they found on the floor. My Kipling poem wasn’t the only thing on the wall anymore – in fact, it was becoming an overshadowed lower layer. But it was still there, and I still saw it.

Last week the dust jackets for my next release showed up at my house. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES releases on September 20th, 2016, seventeen years after the idea first occurred to me. The manuscript that you’ll see on the shelves bears little to no resemblance to that first draft – and that’s a good thing – but the concept and characters have been true to themselves.

So whatever the book of your heart is find a way to put it in your line of sight every day, as a reminder that there’s something more you aspire to.

Then make time for it.

9 thoughts on “The Power of Perseverance

  1. Thank you for sharing this, for the wonderful reminder to Not. Give. Up.

    Oh, and I so remember those SASEs. When rejections – and the occasional acceptance! – waited in the mailbox, not in the inbox.

  2. I'm a freshman in college. I wrote my first “practice novel” when I was fifteen. I started it when I was a high school freshman and finished it when I was a sophomore. Later that year, I sent a fan email to one of my favorite authors and she wrote back encouraging me to follow my dream. I printed out that email, taped it above my writing desk, and wrote down the date every time I finished a book. There are eight dates now.
    I don't have that email taped up anymore. Partly because that author annoys me on social media, partly because my new dorm desk has a window above it, and partly because I haven't finished anything in a while. But I still have it waiting in a folder for when I finish something else.
    When I tell people I like writing, they all tell me to get something published now. But I don't think that's right for me. Some people can publish young, I'm probably not one of them. I have stories I like but I'm not the writer I want to be yet. Plus, I have other things to do. Like the physics homework waiting for me in the other tab.
    Thank for sharing! I hope my stories can make it there someday too.

  3. Thank you everyone!

    Madeline – SASE's… ugh. Those were the days when getting something addressed to you in your own handwriting made your heart go into your throat.

    Tara, MK – 🙂

    Erica – Good for you! It's good to know when you're ready, and also what you can handle in the moment. There's no way I could juggle physics homework and writing a novel, but that's me. I definitely recommend getting through college before trying to get published, because I wouldn't want to have to deal with the time management of both. You have the entire rest of your life to get published – I wasn't published until after 30, and I know very prolific, well known authors who weren't published until their 50s.

  4. Congratulations! I love this story!

    And I still mail poetry to my editor at Highlights with an SASE. We use email once they accept something for publication, but their submissions still go through snail mail.

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