Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Surviving on Unpubbed Island

There’s a little corner of Seekerville known as Unpubbed Island, and a few of us have been stuck here a wee bit too long. We try to keep stiff upper lips, and we wave and cheer like crazy when one of our sisters gets picked up by a luxury liner headed toward Contract City. But each of us is secretly hoping we won’t be the last woman left husking coconuts.

Still, we’re survivors. We know how to crack open contest critiques and boil out the meaty parts. We’re expert plot menders. We’ve tossed out endless manuscripts-in-a-bottle hoping to be rescued by an editor or agent. We can shinny up the tallest palm tree and spot every new publisher on the horizon.

It takes faith and persistence to stick it out on Unpubbed Island. Some days I dream about building a raft and escaping. Life has got to be easier in Volunteer Village or Church Committee Condos. I could learn to garden, spend more time cleaning house, cook a meal that takes longer than ten minutes to prepare.

Or, like several of my Seeker Sisters (both pubbed and unpubbed), I could keep the sharks at bay with a job that actually offers a return for the hours invested. Necessity or not, a “real job” means sacrificing time and creative energy for our writing.

The truth is, even our sisters already living it up in Contract City aren’t shark-proof. Unpubbed Island is a mere stone’s throw away from the Post-Contract Perils Archipelago: Lousy Reviews, Second-Book Blues, and Still Haven’t Paid Your Dues.

Here in Seekerville, though, it’s all for one and one for all. The Three Musketeers times five. The beaches of Unpubbed Island and Post-Contract Perils are strewn with care packages. Hugs. Tears. Prayers. Chocolate. When anyone makes it off the island, she tosses out buoys, life preservers, and signal flares every chance she gets.

If you’re a visitor to Seekerville, we hope you’ve connected with your own community of support. A critique partner, local writers group, online loop. Writing is a lonely business, made even more desolate when the inevitable disappointments come and we’re left to face them alone.

Whom do you look to when discouragement strikes? Who’s your lifeline on this turbulent journey toward writing success? Just remember, here in Seekerville, you’ll always find a seat in the lifeboat, a steaming thermos of cappuccino, and plenty of friends to help you navigate through the fog.


Camy Tang said...

CUTE post! I love this, Myra!

Ausjenny said...

Myra you can add at least one aussie who is hear to listen and support when if discouragement hits.
(I also have 520 bulbs to plant if you wish to take up gardening)

Katherine Harms said...

I not only survive on Unpubbed Island. I think my residence might soon require maintenance -- something I have little time for. I spend a lot of time throwing bottled messages into the waves, hoping to get them out far enough that they don't beat me back to the beach. My knees are skinned from all my tree-climbing with telescope in hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of PromisingPub in the distance.
I would simply relax and bask in the sun except for faithful friends who tell me that what I write matters to them. They encourage me to believe that someone who does not know me will one day also find my manuscripts worthwhile. They remind me that my calling is to write and ship the stuff out. The rest is God's work, which operates in the frame of eternity.
I am not by nature patient, however, so I do mutter a lot, but nobody else on this island can hear me for the noise of their own muttering.

Tina M. Russo said...

OMG!!! You told our secret. This is soooo adorable. You did it so well too. I just love this and you, Myra.

If you have to be stranded on unpub island, who better than you and the other unpubbed Seekers?

And frankly we ARE an amazing bunch. We have Golden Heart finalists, WINNERS, those who were a stone's throw away from publishing and the publisher went belly up or the line did.

We have languished waiting for word on a almost, almost sold manuscript and we have NOT given up.

We are tough chickies.

If you want encouragement or help standing when you cannot, ask someone from unpub island. But if you want to give up, you are talking to the wrong folks!@!!

Julie Lessman said...

WOW, Myra, EXCELLENT POST!!! So much so that I had an urge to slather on sunscreen! :)

One of these days, Unpubbed Island will be deserted, God willing, and I cannot wait for that day!

Onward and upward!


Kimberli said...

I'm not only stranded on Unpubbed Island, I've been granted homesteader status and am receiving property tax notices. But after receiving the Genesis results and falling into that dratted pit of despair and doubt, I'm thinking about packing up and moving back to Dreamland (located north Of the State of Mind.)

Who do I turn to during this time of discouragement? At this point, I don't have a peer goup. My husband received a call to a church last year and I not only moved away from my home and two writers' groups, I moved to the middle of nowhere. The closest town is a half hour away. The closest writers' group an hour. Now I'm in the pit of despair, doubt, and isolation. Thanks the Lord for blogs.

So, is anyone up to throwing a goodbye party for me? If you're thinking gift, I'll take a ticket to Oz, please. I'd love to help Jenny plant those bulbs.

Kimberli said...

Good grief, could I have made any more typos in that comment? No wonder I'm not published! ;o)

Thanks to all of the Seekers for sharing their thoughts on this forum. I appreciate it!

Myra Johnson said...

I actually have to credit Tina with establishing Unpubbed Island as a sanctuary for those of us still waiting for our ship to come in. And Ruthy is our whipcracker, although don't try to feed her sushi or she might slap you.

Kim said...

What an awesome post! And very true of this forum! Ladies of Seekerville, I say again...this is a special place on the internet! There is so much wisdom, support, fun, and genuine seeking that it is inevitable that all the ladies will soon inhabit the world of published authors.

Thanks again for sharing yourselves and your experiences with all of us! This is my favorite school house!


Myra Johnson said...

Kim, you're welcome anytime! And Kimberli, don't you even think about building that raft! Oh, goodness, I know what it's like to be uprooted, separated from friends and family. It takes me such a long time to make new friends.

Have you tried an online critique group? Both ACFW and Faith, Hope & Love have ways of hooking you up. And don't let your Genesis results drag you down for long. The competition was intense in every category.

Hang in there, girlfriend. Ruthy, pour this lady a mocha cappuccino, heavy on the chocolate.

Tina M. Russo said...

Hail, Kimberli,

Welcome. You may move your tiki hut close to us but you may not abandon hope.

On the bulletin board in my hut...




Tina M. Russo said...

Myra, lets share some of our favorite writing resources in the library on Unpub island.

I know Myra and I both utilize,
Michael Hague and Chris Vogler's
DVD The Heroes Two Journeys.


carla stewart said...

Oh Myra, Your creativity continues to amaze me. Why you are unpubbed remains one of the great mysteries of the universe. All of you here at Seekerville are such an encouragement. Keep up the good work. I need my daily dose of laughter and camaraderie, and you gals never let me down.

Gina Welborn said...

Okay, I'm good with the island bit, but I think I want to be a pirate. With a sword. Hmm. Maybe not. I'd probalby cut myself.

I'll be a pirate with a gun. No that won't work either. I barely got an A when I took riflery in college because I'm right handed but left eye dominant so my aim is off.

Hmm. How about I'll be the pirate with a wooden spoon. I've got mad stirring skills.

And I want to be a freshly bathed pirate.


The hardest thing about being on Unpubbed Island is not knowing how long the duration will be. Or seeing a crusie ship drop anchor off shore and be invited to come join. Do I sacrifice my goals for something less leather-skin making or perservere knowing that the sun ages a person 10 years?


Sometimes I forget that the path toward publication is filled with mental battles. No wooden spoon is going to fight off the enemy. I need a sword, and not just a pretty one because I'm a girl and if I'm going to carry a sword it better be sharp and fashionable.

Here's my sword for today:

"...and you are complete in Him..." ~Colossians 2:10a

Knowing that I don't need a publication contract to be complete is what makes sitting on the Island...well, bearable...no, fun. It's all in the attitude. And thanks, Tina, for wacking me out of last night's black hole.

"I'm gonna soak up the sun
Gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I'm gonna tell 'em that)
I've got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I'm looking up
o I'm gonna soak up the sun"

Myra Johnson said...

Got just a few minutes here before I have to hitch a ride in a rowboat (literally!!--it rained all night here!!) and head over to the mainland for PT on my bum shoulder.

Tina's right, we keep our island library stocked with great writing info. Hague and Vogler are among the best. I'm also quite partial to Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer.

C'mon, Seeker Sisters, what else do you recommend?

And wave to Carla, my crit partner and also SOOOOOOO close to publication!

Back in a bit!

Mary Connealy said...

Kimberli, my reaction to your post is, if you're really so stranded, then when better to write? Sure it's lonely, but that's when writing works best. Think hard about giving up your main solitary passtime...when you've got so much solitary to pass.

Mary Connealy said...

And by the way, Katherine and Kimberli, way to keep this analogy zipping along, excellent work. :)

Mary Connealy said...

One secret Seekers know that others might not is that selling short form writing is a good way to bring in some money, build a resume and have moments of success in the rugged waters along the coast of Unpubbed Island.
My first ever sale was a Children's Sunday School Christmas Play.
Tina, don't you have a short story in Women's World this week? Look for the issue with Carrie Underwood on the cover.
It doesn't all have to be book length fiction.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh, Tina, allow me, Working Link Girl, to assist.

The Hero's Two Journeys

Mary Connealy said...

Gina??? You took RIFLERY in college? And...uh...what degree was that for exactly???

Actually, I've got a brother in law who sent to college on a ... oh, sharp shooting (or something) scholarship. He was a big champion in his high school shooting club. Yes, they had that. I wonder if they still do???

Anyway, save the riflery thing for the Little Known Fact section of some interview someday.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Congratulations, Myra, on finaling in the Genesis! I tried to make sure I didn't read it wrong, but I permanently deleted all the emails that had the list of finalists, but I'm almost positive I saw your name there.

Very fun blog post. I like Unpubbed Island. It's better than Your Kids and Your Hubby Are Your Entire Life Peninsula. But sometimes I feel like meteors keep plummeting from the sky and knocking me upside the head. Those rocks are painful, I tell ya.

Janet Dean said...

Myra, your post is awesome! Just like you! And indicative of what Seekers are made of. We're nuts too hard to crack. Hmm. Well upon occasion we may crack, but we don't fall apart. When unpubbed island is deserted, none of us will forget the time we spent there. And I'm guessing we'll all say we learned a bunch.

Blessings all!

Robin said...

I loved your post! I am a newbie - meaning I have actually just started my very first book. And I have decided to look forward to my first rejection letter - because at least it will mean I have started on the journey. So I look forward to joining you soon on Unpubbed Island! You look like an awesome group to hang out on an island with LOL!

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

What a very timely post. I may not be a Seekerville, but I'm definitely on that unpubbed island with you all.

I didn't final and I got reemed over the coals in some areas that are quite discrepant from other responses I've received (even from one editor who requested more). I also got my first perfect score on a manuscript! Of course, there was more than a 30 point difference and a third middle liner. So figure!

Coconut Cheers to Everyone!

Kimberli said...

Thank you all for your encouragement. The good news: I don't plan to stop writing. I love writing articles for my Carolinas travel blog, and I'm currently taking a class on writing for magazines (I have my first practice interview tonight.) I also have three novels I need to revise, so I have enough to keep me busy. I plan to put my time on the mainland to good use by studying all those books I purchased, and reviewing materials I gathered at last year's Blue Ridge conference, and will gather at this year's event, which my husband insists I attend. I belong to an ACFW crit group, and I'm on the ACFW loop and Carolinas Yahoo group. While those have been extremely helpful (thanks to everyone at ACFW) this isolation is very hard on the moral.

However, my thoughts on pulling up stakes are financially driven (it's those blasted property taxes) especially now that I'm not earning a salary. I can't justify spending a thousand bucks or more a year for a conference, books, workshop fees, GAS, etc when I'm not yielding a return. I need a measurable result that indicates I have commercial potential, or some solid answers about my talent before I consider spending money that could be used on a nice Caribbean vacation.

Unless y'all don't mind me bumming around Unpubbed Island. Snorkeling anyone?

Tina M. Russo said...

Thank you for the promotion, Mary. Yes. Circle of Love is in this week's Woman's World. They pay $1000 bucks for a short romance. And that is upon acceptance.

I also write for the Trues, True Story,etc.

Get paid to blog at http://cancer.battlingforhealth.com/

and do other various and sundry writing gigs to support my fiction habit.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Okay Kimberli,

An hour isn't that far. I have a couple of people driving 1 1/2 hours from opposite directions, especially since it's only once a month. Come visit us at Carolina Christian Writers. We'd love to have you. Got some critiques going on. Have I enticed you yet?

If you want to go to Gail Gaymer Martin's workshop on May 31st, I'm sure you can carpool with someone (like me). Registration is ready on our website. You can be on our unpubbed Carolina island. Believe me, you're not alone.

Mary Connealy said...

Sorry about the... non island analogy alert... sling and arrows of contest entries.
Just before we get on a roll, its good to remember that WHATEVER you say here will live in cyberspace for all eternity so be very careful about complaining on an open forum.
We Seekers do that in private. :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Someone just sent me an email with this quote at the bottom:

Champions are not supernatural; they just fight one more time when everyone else quits & this one more effort gives them the victory.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, a rousing two thumbs up for your post!

As an island dweller, let me just say that if ya' gotta be stranded, Unpub Island with a bunch of Seeker sisters beats the wang-jeebies out of "Lost".

I mean, come on? Are ya' kiddin' me? The Others? Polar bears? Secret codes?

Nobody on our island sleeps around (that we KNOW of) and we get to share all kinds of new and amazing recipes that all look like sushi or grilled tuna.

I'm sick of fish, but the sisterhood is great. We have a hut that's for our church services in bad weather (monsoons, tornadoes, tsunamis) but we like to hold most of our prayer services in the open, under the trees.

And for all of you out there who know this feeling, know and understand that you're not alone. That's a big reason why we're here, in Seekerville, chatting it up, having fun.

Ya gotta stretch and spread in this business, all part of learning to fly.

So, yeah, we hang together, and we're not afraid to take on whatever comes our way because we figure it's just a precursor to life as a pubbed author and we want to be tough enough to smile, nod and get the job done.

And make people happy.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kimberli, just got to your post...

Okay, girlfriend, here it is:

If you quit now, I have no trouble with the idea of taking a quick plane off the island and giving you a total smackdown, and believe me, Cupcake, I can do it.

Genesis, Schmenisis...

It's okay to bottom out, but ya' can't stay down. Connect yourself any way you can with online groups and/or a cool critique partner. I first met Sandra when she dared take me on through FH&L, and it's been a wonderful sisterhood ever since.

Even when we fight.


So kid, hang on the island with us. You're never truly alone there, you know that, right? Seekers are but a post or e-mail away and we have lots of fun bossing people around.


Mary and Tina have lots of fun bossing people around. And Camy.


I just bring dessert.

And don't even think to ask us how we make cappuccino on the island. It's a state secret.



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kim and all...

I just read Myra say that it takes her a looooong time to make new friends.


Send me chocolate and I'll tell you WHY.

I can be bought, and it doesn't have to be Godivas, either. Shoot, I can be had for a .70 bag of M&M's...


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Gina (and no, I haven't played with your pages yet. I'm soooooo bad, but I still love you)...

Just so you know, on Unpub Island, we generally like our pirates to be umm...


We're unpubbed, honey, not dead.


Mary Connealy said...

And another way we can make money with writing is blogs. Yes there are some that pay.

Not this one! Trust me!

Here for example, Tina, who turns out to be a genius...that's like... three of them now. (No, I'm sure you're ALL geniuses, ignore that!)
Lurking as Seekers, hiding their science and engineering (or whatever) degrees.

Battling Cancer

Okay, I admit it. I am drunk with power playing with these active links.

Mary Connealy said...

I also find myself distracted by shiny objects

Mary Connealy said...

Thaaaaaaaaaaaaat's Right

Ruthy never bosses anybody around, she is mild mannered and sweet.

We have all learned to say it, and say it quick before she starts slapping us.

Mary Connealy said...

Here is my current favorite quote.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

Myra Johnson said...

Back from PT. Wow, it's a real party here on Unpubbed Island! Thanks, everybody, for such an enthusiastic response! You're making my day!

For the record, I have been writing since 1983, sold my first short story to a YA Sunday school magazine in 1985. I've been dreaming of selling a novel ever since. Gave up on children's & YA, moved on to women's fiction/romance around 1999 after my daughters left the nest.

So I've been at this a really, really long time. And between book manuscripts, I've written (and thankfully sold) a good number of short stories, articles, devotions, and anthology contributions. So I am a HUGE proponent of honing your skills and building your publishing credits with shorter writing.

At one of my Mount Hermon appointments, the editor took one look at my very long list of credits and appeared significantly impressed. It shows I know how to work with editors, know how to meet deadlines, know how to be a professional.

Of course you still have to write a really good book. And get an editor to actually take a chance on you. Which seems to be getting harder and harder as they don't want to take a risk on an unproven writer.

But it'll happen. I know it will. And if it doesn't, well, God knows why He called me to write, why He won't let me give up on this dream even when giving up sounds so much easier than dealing with the rejection. So I'm going to be obedient and keep at it.

And stock up on tuna.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

(Myra, honey, we can't stock up on tuna...

We fish for it.

Though if we evaporate the sea water, we can use the remaining dregs of salt for preserving the tuna...

like the pioneers did with salt cod.



Myra Johnson said...

What???? I just bought two cans of tuna while I was on the mainland! Should I have bought a can opener, too?

And dang, I forget to pick up your double mocha latte, Ruthy!

Kimberli said...

I'm enjoying this discussion. I can't believe I'm laughing over yet another setback. Thanks, y'all.

Jennifer, thanks for the invitation. I attend the Raleigh group right now. Charlotte is a bit too far, and it's...Charlotte. How you do drive around there every day? I lived in Dallas for ten years and the highways through Charlotte frighten me. I am planning to attend Gail Martin's workshop. Mary and I will drive up there together. FYI, I created a Facebook event for the workshop this morning, so hopefully that will reach others who may be interested.

Would continue to chat, but I have to run and make sure my address isn't listed anywhere on the Internet. I think Ruth is serious!

Pam Hillman said...

Myra, I'm sniffling here at my desk. I didn't know you could wax so poetic. And, you know what guys? It's all true!

Now, for some reason I'm singing...

Wastin' away again in Seekerville...

Pam Hillman said...

Kimberli said: At this point, I don't have a peer goup. My husband received a call to a church last year and I not only moved away from my home and two writers' groups, I moved to the middle of nowhere.

((((Hugs Kimberli))))

But you know what? The Seekers only see each other once a year and sometimes NEVER. We live in 14 different states, but if I get good news or bad, they're the FIRST bunch of friends I email. I know I can count on them no matter what.

You'll find those friends who are 'closer than a brother' and you'll be so thankful you did.

Tina M. Russo said...

OMIGOSH. LADIES. Here we go....


Lorna said...

Myra, wonderful post and congratulations on finaling in the Genesis!

I think the most important part of living on Unpubbed Island is we live in huts there. If we started building castles, we'd be tempted to stay.
They'd also have moats and that would keep others out. Huts are very inviting little places.

Lorna said...

Oh, can I be pirate with a bow and arrow? I know Ruthy said there were only men pirates, but I could wear a disguise. (I took archery in college. That and badmitton. Does that tell you how athletically challenged I really am?)

Also, hang in there kimberli!

Myra Johnson said...

Permit me . . .

Nim's Island

Gotta see that movie!

Myra Johnson said...

We would know, Lorna. We would know.

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks, Myra I was too busy drooling over Gerard to learn my links lesson.

Myra Johnson said...

How do you suppose we could get him to hop on over to Unpubbed Island?

Kimberli said...

Oh, eek, please forgive my selfishness. Myra, congratulations on making it to the Genesis finals! I'll be rooting for you.

And if there's more than one finalist on the island, I'll root for them, too. I'd pull out my old cheerleader uniform and shout some cheers, but I'm almost sure it would only fit half of my body. Same for my bathing suit, so I'll have to wear shorts and a shirt on the beach.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kimberli, bathing suits are verboten on our island.

We don't even let skinny little Camy wear one when she visits.


Unless they're full length variety, preferably with a ruffled skirt.

And Tina, your link worked.

It just looked awful and low-tech.

But what care we for the everyday appearance of modern man????

Unless it's Gerard Butler....

He can be a pirate on the island.

Maybe he can catch something that isn't tuna. Didn't I see a wild boar not too long ago?

And I'm dying for a croissant. Hey, Julie, Cheryl, one of you?

Bring us some butter, would ya?


Myra Johnson said...

Thanks, Kimberli! Actually, Cara is also a finalist! We were just joking in Seekerville yesterday that Cara usually writes historicals and finaled in contemporary. I usually write contemporary and finaled in historical!

So . . . a lesson here for us Unpubbed Islanders. It might occasionally be a good idea to try a new genre. A fresh approach might be just what we need to loosen up our creative muscles and get excited about writing again.

Ausjenny said...

Oh Kimberli you are wellcome.
moving to a small town in the middle of nowhere can be daunting.
but Im sure there are some online groups who can help you
(not that i dont want you to come help me plant my bulbs cos after yesterdays effort i can hardly walk)
but i do hope you will be able to turn your discouragement around.
I would send you some flowers if i could.

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks, everybody, for stopping in Seekerville today! It's been fun "island hopping" with you!

Time to stoke the campfire. I see Tina caught another monster tuna, and I'm starved! Think I'll harvest some wild lettuce for a salad,then milk the goat so Ruthy has something to froth the cappuccinos with. Pam, you and Cara are in charge of dessert.

Glynna, bring out our best palm leaves to set the table, okay? Never know when the U.S.S. Contract is gonna drop anchor!

Tina M. Russo said...

LOL!!! This was fun. Thanks, Myra.

And thanks to our new friends for stopping by.

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Myra! I enjoyed all the comments. I've had the in-laws visiting today so didn't make it until late. :)

Nims Island looks sooo good! Thanks for sharing the link!


Mary Connealy said...

Let me add...excellent link, Myra. Very slick.

Camy Tang said...

OMG Ruthy said I was skinny! Ruthy, you have officially made my entire MONTH.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Skinny, young, beautiful, smart and savvy...

Reasons enough to hate you right there, darling....

But we love you, kid. And we don't mean to be jealous of you, and the fact that half of us could be your stinkin' mother.

Oy vay.



Pam Hillman said...

Hmmm, dessert? Cara, didn't we see some cocoa leaves...uh...beans, yeah...it's beens we want, not LEAVES! the other day? Coconut and wild sugarcane...goat butter....

We should be able to come up with something edible. Let's hop to it!

Gina Conroy said...

Wow! I'm impressed by how many comments this post got! It just goes to show you're not alone!

"JEANNELLE" said...

Its fun to listen in on your banter here.