If you read her words and walk away feeling smug or ambivalent, you have thoroughly missed the point. I don’t know Sarah personally, but she was one of the first online book launch parties I attended, and I found her to be funny and kind.
I hate that another person has found the lack of support from the rest of humanity to be the undercurrent that forces her to close the door on her creative efforts. I’ve written on this topic before, and as someone who knows what it is like to go it alone, it is a topic dear to my heart.
Some have read Sarah’s post and callously commented that she is just upset that she hasn’t become a bestselling author, and the detractors declared her “hide” not thick enough. These comments only validate her claims.
The words I read paint the picture of a woman who has worked diligently to follow her dreams, but she has realized that following that path doesn’t guarantee you success, happiness, fame, fortune, or friends. The meager pay and isolation that most experience just isn’t enough to keep working night and day to please an audience that may never be reached.
Independent artists are working harder than ever before, and it is physically and emotionally draining. The endless pull on our time and wallet can be overwhelming. If artists do not have that energy and expense replenished, they are forced to choose between the demands of the everyday and the creative forces that beckon. The mortgage and an empty stomach will always win out.
In this high-tech world we live in, it is a sad statement of fact that people are more disconnected from one another than ever before. While many algorithms of social media work against the creative who strives to get their art in front of the world audience, it isn’t the primary reason so many voices go unheard. If you like something, share it! Spread the word by hitting a simple button. Support the creative endeavors of others, whether they have written a book, composed a song, or opened a small business. Purchase the works of independent artists before all of their voices have gone silent.
If you cannot purchase something, at least embrace the impact you have on the life of another. It takes nothing from you to be kind—absolutely nothing. The kindness you show may be the very act that gives another the very nod of support they were seeking. That nod may compel the artist to return to their work, or it may just keep them from harming themselves. Each of us has that power. Own the power, and be a force of good in someone’s life. If you live long enough, you too will one day seek a light in the darkness.
We are all in this together. Isn’t it time we started acting like it?
Today marks the two year anniversary of the death of my beloved dog, Grandbury. He was just eight weeks shy of turning eighteen! He was a German Shepherd mix, and he was an amazing dog.
I always told him that I loved him “to the moon and back” and promised that I would be with him until the end. Two years ago he entered into a seizure that would not stop. Holding him as he took his last breath, I whispered those five words over and over into his ear, hoping my voice comforted him.
My sweet grand boy, I miss you. I’m thankful for every minute I shared with you.
We were married in March because that is the month in which we met. We married on the 14th because that was one of the few dates that the Little Chapel was available. The 15th was available, but this English major could not agree to marry on the “Ides of March.”
It was storming and pouring down rain the morning of our wedding. The rain stopped just prior to my bridesmaids leading me to the front of the Chapel. As I walked around the side of the Chapel, the sun pushed the clouds aside and shone brightly for the rest of the day.
We footed the bill for our wedding, and the budget was so tight we served only our wedding cake and a groom’s cake at the reception. The only bites we had of our own cakes were memorialized in the traditional “feeding each other” photographs. Hours later, our first meal of the day would be a few packages of peanuts on the plane to our honeymoon.
People let us know exactly how they felt. “You are too young.” “You are throwing away your future.” “You’ll never accomplish your dreams.” “It won’t last.” “Are you pregnant?” “You will regret it.” “Are you sure?” “He isn’t really your type.” “She is awfully young.”
I was told by everyone, including strangers in elevators, not to marry at so young of an age. Everyone told me that the person you are at nineteen is not the person you’ll be at twenty-five or thirty-five. I listened to what they said, but I didn’t let their words destroy what I felt.
We wanted to marry because we were in love with one another. We didn’t want to wait another minute to begin our life together as a family.
Those concerned people were right; we aren’t the same people we were when we married. What they didn’t count on was our recognizing that marriage is hard work, and we vowed to always show up to our marriage the way an employee shows up to work. We show up every day and put the required effort in to keep the passion and love alive. We’ve grown together as a couple, never leaving the other behind. This is what works for us, and it is the reason we’ve lasted this long.
I can’t imagine what the road ahead has in store for us, as I never could have anticipated a moment of the time we’ve shared. I hope to live the rest of my days happily married to my best friend. The realist in me knows this may not be the case. Life is full of surprises, and the road we travel on this journey is bumpy and full of potholes. Anything can throw your world out of alignment. As the woman who has successfully weathered many a storm while holding her best friend’s hand, I believe that the two of us can make it through just about anything.
There isn’t anything we cannot achieve together. We are a team. A unit. A family. Fur and feathers included.
Happy Anniversary, Loren. I love you. I’m happy to partner up with you for another nineteen years.
March 15, 2014 – A new starting point in my life, as I’ve been with this one person longer than I existed without him. No one is more surprised than I am.
Read the previous posts in the Lucky in Love series:
Part Three of my Lucky In Love Series – My True Romance
I had a written plan for my future. I never intended to marry until I was at least twenty-seven. I met Loren, and the plan went out the window. Yes, he regrets the eyeglass frames and the mustache. I had big glasses, but I was too smart to wear them in the photograph.
Loren is a little older than I am. For example, in November 1987, he was entering the U.S. Navy,
and I was in the seventh grade. That is a six year age difference for all you fellow non-math people.
I loved my ring! Loren designed my engagement ring and commissioned an artist to make it.
No, not everyone believed in our love story, but that didn’t matter to us. I spent holiday break with him in Illinois, and he returned with me to Texas in January. We planned our wedding for March, a year after having met online.
Read the previous parts of the Lucky in Love Series:
My husband and I met on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). I initially used the system to communicate with my boyfriend who had moved to another city, but I loved talking to people all over the world. I met Loren online when I was bored and sick with both mono and strep throat.
I didn’t have a computer in my dorm room. In order to get online, I either had to go across campus to a computer lab or reserve a computer in the lab on the bottom floor of my dorm. There wasn’t a simple button to click and connect to the internet, either. I learned how to create a virtual terminal connection with other computers and use IRC. It was a complicated process that I shared with my friends. The once empty computer stations were now constantly in use; my friends were all reserving computers to talk to people across the globe.
Once I started using the computer to chat on IRC, I was hooked.
After three months of having only talked online and on the phone, Loren drove from Illinois to Texas to meet me. He’d sent me a photo of himself, but I wouldn’t send him a photo of me. He decided to stop waiting on me to send a photograph, and he came to see me in person. The first time I laid eyes on him, I felt as if I’d known him my entire life. There were no awkward moments, as we truly had become very good friends.
Five minutes after he’d left on his return trip to Illinois, I told my roommate that I knew I’d just spent three days with the man I would one day marry. Just before he reached the interstate entrance ramp, he stopped at a payphone to call and tell me he didn’t want to leave.
Friends, I know some of you are hurting and in a dark place. I want you to remember that good things are on the horizon. I know it may not seem like it, but better days are ahead. Happiness can seem elusive, always wiggling out of reach. Recognizing the opportunity for happiness is similar to searching for a rainbow. We take rainbows for granted, but unless the conditions are right, we don’t see them either. If you move just a fraction of an inch, the rainbow can disappear on you. While happiness may rely on many elements coming together, sometimes it is truly about the view from which we are standing. Don’t be afraid to take a step to discover another point of view. You might just find a rainbow.
I recently found out a dear friend from high school committed suicide. He was in a dark place the last time we spoke. Two years later, he took his own life. He was one of the good guys, and I miss him.
March is a special month for me, as it is the month of my wedding anniversary. I’m not the world’s luckiest person, for I have been known to attract misfortune. Yes, I’m the person who causes my friends to proclaim, “I never knew anyone experienced stuff like that until I met you.”
I obviously wasn’t born under a lucky moon or star constellation, as it has been this way my entire life. I’m the queen of drawing the short stick. Instead of moaning about the misfortunes, I try to do more for others and appreciate all the good that I have in my life. Sure, I’m not made of stone, and many a moment has left me wondering “why” and has successfully brought me to tears, but I’m not a person who wallows in sadness. There is always someone in a worse situation, and I know this because when I feel down, I offer my time and shoulder to those who are in need. I guarantee that your sadness will fall to the wayside when you help others who are in need.
I am lucky when it comes to my partner—my husband. I prefer the term partner, as that is truly the word that reflects our relationship. We are partners in all things. I’m reticent to put this out in the universe, as I don’t want to suffer like Sandra Bullock did when she professed her undying love for her husband during her Golden Globes and Oscar acceptance speeches in 2010. The universe doesn’t seem to like it when a loving couple is either in a music video together or one of them speak about their affection for the other. Perhaps this is a celebrity issue, and I clearly do not have to worry about that. Yes, I’ll choose to believe that.
I am a lucky duck when it comes to my partner. He is kind, loyal, generous, patient, loving, and honest. I can say without the bat of an eyelash that he loves me unconditionally. He has taken care of me through many an illness, and cheered me on when I’ve nearly given up on everything. He makes me laugh at the silliest things, and he keeps me looking forward to the next step in our journey together. Our wedding anniversary is March 14,, 2014, and I will spend the next two weeks honoring my love with my blog posts. I hope you’ll enjoy the opportunity to get to know me a little better.
This past weekend, I escaped the ten inches of snow we received in Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the seventh annual Savannah Book Festival in Savannah, Georgia. On the way down, I was stuck in traffic for two hours, as a tractor trailer had hit a guard rail and caught on fire. Thankful for my obsession of never falling below half a tank of gas on a road trip, I made it to my destination in one piece and with gas to spare.
Like a child anticipating the presents they’ll unwrap on Christmas morning, I found it difficult to sleep. I used the time to plan my festival itinerary. I planned to see Alice Hoffman, Wiley Cash, Hugh Howey, Anita Shreve, and Megan McArdle. Thirty-four authors were scheduled to appear, with up to four presentations running simultaneously. Authors were given an hour time slot, and following their presentations, they were available to sign books that attendees had purchased at the event.
The festival took place in Telfair and Wright Squares among a handful of churches and museums in historic Savannah. The sun shone brightly, but the wind was sharp and reminded me how grateful I was for having worn long sleeves and a sweater. I would have been more comfortable with a jacket, but the sun was very deceptive and lured me into a false sense of security for the day’s weather.
I and my companion arrived late to Alice Hoffman’s presentation in the Trinty United Methodist Church. We settled into some folding chairs in the balcony, as Ms. Hoffman had a packed house. I initially thought I had never read or owned one of her books. I knew she’d written Practical Magic (yes, the one that inspired the movie of the same name), but I’d never linked her as the writer of Here on Earth, a book that has sat in my vast library of books waiting to be read. Like so many of the books I own, I’m not sure how it came into my possession, but like chance encounters with strangers, I feel it has been placed in my path for a reason, so I have held onto it.
Ms. Hoffman won my heart when she declared herself a reader and said that the books we read when we are twelve years old are the ones that stay with us. Yes, I believe this too, and know that without those books, I would be a very different person. Those books helped to shape me in ways I’ll never understand. Ms. Hoffman spoke of her love for “the magic in the language” found in Toni Morrison’sThe Bluest Eye.
An audience member asked if Ms. Hoffman takes breaks between writing her books. Ms. Hoffman laughed and excitedly explained that she has so many books in her head that the stories wait in line to be cued for takeoff like airplanes at the airport. Once those stories have been written, she moves on and leaves the stories and characters for her readers.
I was excited to hear another writer say that they often forget details about their stories and characters. I have a very long memory about the most mundane things of everyday life, but I can hear a sentence read back to me from a story I’ve written, and I’ll be the first to ask who penned it. Friends and family are quick to point out that I did, and they cannot understand how I could forget writing it. I explain that writing is the only way in which I can truly release myself—rid myself of those feelings and emotions I pack up and carry with me every day. Once I’ve written it down, I’ve released it.
Our short time with Ms. Hoffman ended, and we were quickly on our way to hear Wiley Cash speak. Wiley Cash, in his plaid shirt and jeans, was relaxed and personable with the small audience that gathered in the Telfair Rotunda. Surrounded by works of art, Mr. Cash spoke about his latest book, This Dark Road to Mercy.
I traveled to the festival with his book in my bag. I often visit the setting of the book, Mr. Cash’s native Gastonia, a city west of Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Cash read from his novel, his southern accent bringing his characters to life. Nothing compares to hearing the author read his or her own work. The emphasis placed on certain words and the pause of a breath is so much more profound than one can ever experience from a recording read by someone else.
As questions of dialect and language arose from the audience, it was wonderful to hear someone speak about the slight variations in speech between counties in North Carolina, specifically Buncombe County, where my book Manual Exposure is set. Mr. Cash diligently strives to reflect the truest vision of the people and places he writes about, and his attention to detail was not lost on those who had read his books.
Asked how he felt about self-publishing and the success of fellow author Hugh Howey, Mr. Cash said that he knew self-publishing was a hard path. “The reason you know Hugh Howey’s name is because there are so few of them.”
When you write a book, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. You have to make decisions early on. What do I want? What am I gonna be satisfied with? The night we got the call that my book had sold, my wife and I decided this is gonna be the best moment…. So—self-publishing—you really have to decide, what’s gonna be my ‘best moment.’
I agree with Mr. Cash. Writers should choose what that best moment is for them and seek to attain it. In doing so, writers must also understand what that means for their work and future works. Some writers never aspire to see their books in Barnes and Noble. If they are content with seeing their work available online at Amazon.com in the form of an ebook, then that is their measurement of success and they should have that moment and embrace it. However, if a writer does want their book on that bookstore shelf, one has to accept that there is no time for complacency.
Asked about his writing process, Mr. Cash said that he encourages writers to have an event to pace the book against—a method he utilizes in This Dark Road to Mercy, as he believes it forces the writer to focus. I have to agree, as I used one semester of school as the bookends of my story, and it kept me on point and pace. Forcing yourself to tell the story within a frame of time eliminates the unnecessary elements of your work. Additionally, knowing that the story needs to be completed by a certain time helps maintain reader engagement. This method helps create an element of suspense and excitement in your storytelling.
It was time for lunch, and my friend and I were off to explore. I was surprised to see McDonald’s and CVS among the independent shops and historic buildings. We strolled to River Street and found more shops and eateries squeezed along the scenic view. We dined at the first café I found that offered a veggie burger. Vegans, you can find food to eat among the seafood and barbeque offerings.
Having grown weary of the afternoon wind attacking us, we quickly walked to the Lutheran Church Fellowship in Wright Square to hear Hugh Howey speak. I’ve only recently become aware of this author, in part because of his timely article on self-publishing. He has had great success with his self-published books, and has been lauded for signing with Simon and Schuster to distribute the Wool series while maintaining full digital rights of the book.
Prior to the start of the presentation, Mr. Howey walked among those who had arrived early, asking if they were in the right place. He stopped to engage with the attendees and speak with them in private conversations. Readers of his work were visibly excited to meet him.
He spoke about his experience self-publishing Wool. Comprised of five previously self-published novellas, Wool has been compared to The Hunger Games, and the film rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox.
Asked about his success as a self-published author, Mr. Howey stated that he doesn’t actively promote his materials by asking people to read his work. He appreciates the fact that his readership has grown by word-of-mouth suggestions—from one friend passing his book along to another. He believes this organic growth is inherent of a good story, but he acknowledges that his tale is a lucky one.
We made our way back to the Trinity United Methodist Church to hear Anita Shreve speak. Ms. Shreve is a favorite author of mine, and I was very excited to see and hear her. Happy to find a window seat, I enjoyed the warmth of the sun and felt like I had been welcomed into her home. She spoke candidly about her work and experience as a writer.
Ms. Shreve spoke about her journalism career in Africa and her decision to follow a different path as a fiction writer. As for her writing process, she prefers to write in the morning, avoiding any distractions or interruptions as she wakes from bed and makes it to her desk. She writes her works by hand and uses the computer for editing. I’m thrilled to share the love of writing in longhand with her.
An audience member asked for advice for those who are attempting to make it as writers, and Ms. Shreve didn’t hesitate to say that there are no shortcuts or magic formulas. She acknowledged the difficulty that writers face and spoke about the advantages of being lucky enough to have two of her novels featured as selections in Oprah’s Book Club.
Megan McArdle’s new non-fiction book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, informs the reader that failure makes success possible. Ms. McArdle explained that in order to discover what works, we must first learn what doesn’t work.
She spoke of the way in which many parents hover over their children in an attempt to eliminate any opportunity for them to experience failure or pain. She argued that those actions do not contribute to the success or growth of the child. For example, the way in which humans learn to walk—the fall is inevitable, but we must learn to get back up and try again. The small failures we experience as we learn to walk teach us about both our bodies and our environment.
Growing up, I was never given the green light to fail. Failure was not rewarded with a gold star. If you failed, that meant you didn’t properly prepare, you didn’t do your best, and you came up short against those who succeeded. Success and failure were the only two paths in front of me, and I was expected to succeed in every task that I attempted. Failure meant that you were a failure, and you should move on and try something else.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that failure is a tool for learning. Failure is inevitable. We won’t always succeed, and instead of seeing it as an end to that interest or aspiration, we must take a step back and learn from the reasons we failed. If I could go back in time, I’d teach young Jeannie this, and perhaps prevent her from having stomach ulcers at the age of eighteen.
While she doesn’t believe that everyone is a winner at all things, Ms. McArdle believes that we can become winners by learning from our failures. Our failures hold secrets that we never would have learned had we not dared to try. As we learn to overcome our failings, we venture to take new paths that may not have been available on the straight path to success, and these experimental avenues may hold answers to questions we’ve never thought to ask
The hour with Ms. McArdle came to an end, and with that, the festival came to a close. I, who had worried that attending the presentations of five authors wouldn’t be nearly enough, was thoroughly exhausted.
As I processed the events of the day, I found a unifying thread that ran through each of the authors’ presentations: luck had played a major role in their successes. Whether they had been successful as a traditionally published or self-published author, they each acknowledged that it is hard to become a successful author. While talent and hard work are requirements, they alone are rarely enough.
Sadly, I didn’t walk away from the festival with a recipe to guaranteed success. However, I did benefit from the companionship of fellow book lovers and writers. I feel lucky to have been able to attend, and I doubly enjoyed it, as I was with a childhood friend whose love of reading is a new occurrence, and it was interesting to experience the event with her by my side. While I don’t love the bridge to Savannah, I thought the city was beautiful and inviting. I’d love to spend more time exploring the city, and if you ever get the chance, I encourage you to do the same.