by Sheila Connolly
Another year. How did that happen?
Over the holidays I struggled to send out a holiday letter to my oldest (high school, college) friends and my scattered relatives (and it was late, as always). For most of them this is the only time they hear from me, unless they’re following me on Facebook, which is most cases is unlikely. So each year I summarize what I and my family have done over the past year. My husband writes his own, to his own list, so I get to spend most of the letter talking about me.
This year I realized I had electronic files for these annual letters dating back to 1996, so I re-read them all. What I had not realized was that I had documented the whole step-by-step process of starting to write, finishing a book, submitting, finding an agent, dumping that agent, finding a better agent, and finally selling a book. And a series, and another, and another.
While I started (tentatively) writing in 2001, I didn’t mention it publicly until 2004. Here’s what I wrote then:
I have a confession to make: for the last three years I’ve been writing novels – romantic suspense, cozy mystery, chick-lit, even a paranormal. I figured I’d better give it a shot while I had the chance. I’ve completed eight books, and there are three more in progress. Last year I found an agent, and he is circulating three of them (soon to be four) to editors. It’s a slow process, but I have faith that one or more will land in the hands of a sympathetic reader, and I’ll be off to the races as a published author. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Ten years ago. That “eight books”? Some of them are still on a shelf (and may stay there). Some of them I mined for plots or characters who ended up in a different book—I hate to waste anything. Some of them I cleaned up and released myself. That first agent is history, but I didn’t sign with my next until 2006. I didn’t see a book with my name on it in a bookstore until 2008.
It’s been a long and sometimes bumpy road to where I am today, but I know how lucky I am. I’ve met wonderful people along the way. I’ve learned that being persistent (okay, stubborn) can pay off if you wait long enough. I’ve learned that there’s always something new to learn from other writers, and it pays to listen. I’ve seen changes in the publishing industry that no one expected.
I am grateful to have the chance to be a writer, which I love, and that other people want to read what I write. I don’t plan to stop as long as I can still put words on a page—and as long as people still want to read my books.
Yes, there’s another book coming: An Early Wake, the third in the County Cork Mysteries. A book set in this pub, in this small town, was one of the first I ever finished, but I never let it go. It took a few tries, but I finally found the right story for it, that my publisher liked. And here we are!