Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Book That Almost Wasn't

 Whenever I open the document titled The Blue Rose, I look at the date it was created and smile. July 15, 2010. Eager to write the story of a male high school senior who is suddenly saddled with an infant, I whipped out five chapters. At the time, I was also working on a book in my Unbidden Magic series. Consequently, The Blue Rose took a back seat.

 In October of that year, I attended a large, highly regarded conference in a major city that included “dozens of industry professional.” One of the workshops featured a panel of agents and editors who offered to evaluate the first page of writers’ works in progress. Hmm, why not give it a try? After all, these are the gatekeepers. The industry professionals. Critiques are good. I stepped to the front of the packed room and added the first page of The Blue Rose to the pile, never dreaming it would be selected.

The panel shuffled through the stack of papers and selected six. Mine was the second. In a juicy baritone and a tone dripping with sarcasm, the moderator read, “The night Gabriel Delgado found out he was a father, he was …” After completing the first paragraph, he paused, sighed and mugged for the audience. Then, each person (industry professional) took turns explaining why this pathetic first page would never make the cut.

For one thing I was grateful. Other than the flush of humiliation burning my cheeks, and the fervent hope I’d developed the ability to vanish, nobody knew it was my work. Later in the day, I had a pitch appointment with one of the agents from the panel. I almost backed out, but decided that would be the coward’s way out. When we met, I said, “I’m pitching the book your panel just eviscerated.” She had the good grace to look ashamed and mumbled, “Well, you know, that was mainly done for the entertainment value.”

After I returned home, the doubts set in. Even though I had several published books, I was convinced The Blue Rose was a dud. It languished in my computer for several years. Had it not been for my librarian friend, Lynne Greene, it would still be unfinished. She’d read the first few chapters and, each time we met, she’d ask, “Have you finished the magic baby book?” Tired of telling her, “No,’ I began to work on it again. With much trepidation, I pitched it to my editor along with a couple of other ideas.

Much to my surprise, she loved the concept of a teen-age boy in an all-male household raising a baby girl. A publication date was set and I tackled the book again. The Blue Rose became Baby Gone Bye. I dithered over the first page but decided to leave it alone. Incidentally, the book still begins, “The night Gabe Delgado found out he was a father …”

Lessons learned:

1.Industry professionals can be wrong.
2. Seek feedback from people you trust.
3. Trust yourself more. Listen to your inner critic. When it goes ding, ding, ding, don’t ignore it. You’re on the wrong track.
4. Attempt to be as supportive to yourself as you are to others. Above all, don’t let anything or anybody stop you from writing your story. If it needs to be told, tell it.

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by criticism or self doubt? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Baby Gone Bye.


  1. This is a great post, Marilee--and a very important one. I had a similar experience at a local branch of a big writing organization, and it was mortifying to say the least. Thank goodness you didn't give up! And you've encouraged me to look at my own pages--the ones everyone laughed at-- with new eyes. Thanks again for posting! Happy Holidays!

  2. Thanks, Valerie. Yes, definitely dig those pages up and take a look at them. Might be some nuggets there.

  3. I have the self-doubt problem because it's so darn easy to get indecisive about what I should be writing, or where the story should go. I guess we just have to remember Sylvia Plath's quote: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
    Congrats on the book, btw! :-)

  4. So true, Suzanne. Somehow I think women have more trouble with self-doubt than men, but I could be wrong.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can imagine the situation you were in when they read your work and ripped it apart. I am glad you had someone in your corner who enjoyed the story and kept at you about it until you developed the story further. It sounds like an interesting read and your words of advice are inspirational.

    Wishing you the best of luck!

  6. Thanks, Jess. I appreciate your comments.