By Wendy Tyson
I was a new associate at a large Philadelphia law firm when an anonymous “friend” gave me the shove I needed to continue pursuing my dream of writing.
I’d been writing since childhood, mostly short stories. Some years before, I realized I wasn’t going to make a living writing literary short fiction, so I decided to attend law school. But once I was through the grueling three-year law program and gainfully employed, my earlier calling beckoned. I felt torn. On one hand, I now had a good, if incredibly stressful, job, along with piles of student debt. I was also the mother of a young son and pregnant with twins. A bad time to change course. On the other hand, I felt like I had given up something vital. I was so torn, in fact, that I started journaling during lunch. Between billable hours, I would write about writing, often in random notebooks I had lying around my office.
Then one day the firm moved my office to another floor. I hastily packed up my belongings and started anew in an office six stories higher. A month later, I received a package in a confidential envelope through our interoffice mail. It contained an unsigned letter taped to one of my old notebooks. The sender came across the journal—presumably left behind during the move—and read it. He or she took the time to pen an inspirational note in reaction to my ramblings. Don’t give up on your dreams, s/he said. Work hard and often on the things that matter. Write that novel (instead of writing about writing it), crazy schedule be damned. If you give up now, you’ll regret it later, s/he said. Wise words, indeed. Much wiser than the dribble I had written in those notebooks.
I was horrified. I was embarrassed. I was touched.
To this day, I have no idea who that anonymous person was, but I have long stopped caring. Instead, I’m appreciative that he or she took the time to reach out (hey—if you happen to be reading this, thank you!) because that note was the kick in the ass I needed to start writing again. The note made me realize that I didn’t have to choose between writing and law—I could do both. It also served as a reminder that writing wasn’t going to result in instant success, but that if I was writing for the right reasons, it shouldn’t matter.
I’d like to say everything fell neatly into place after that, but that would be an untruth. I did write that first novel—getting up at 4 a.m. every morning before work, while my infant twins and my inner critic slept. It took me a year to complete the first draft. I eventually landed an agent and she pitched the novel to a handful of legacy publishers. The book, which sits on a shelf in my office dutifully collecting dust, never sold.
I parted ways with my first agent and once again began the search for representation. I wrote a second book, then a third—both mysteries. Although my second book received a lot of interest and many requests for the full manuscript, it wasn’t until I wrote my third book that I was offered representation by a new agent—several, actually. I signed with the one who seemed most enthusiastic about my work. I was in it for the long haul; I wanted an agent who would be, too.
Ironically, it was the second book (KILLER IMAGE) that my new agent sold first.
I remember every detail of the day I received the news. I had been in Houston on a business trip for The Day Job. My agent had received a number of kind rejections for my third novel, THE SEDUCTION OF MIRIAM CROSS, and I was feeling discouraged. Really discouraged. Soul-searchingly discouraged. Maybe my anonymous supporter had it all wrong. Maybe the trick was knowing when to give up. I boarded a plane back to Philly, nursing my case of the publishing blues. When I landed and turned on my phone, to my surprise I had missed calls, voicemails and emails from my agent. She had just begun pitching KILLER IMAGE and Henery Press was interested.
Like that, things changed.
Here, too, I’d be lying if I said the rest was easy. I’m not a New York Times bestselling author, I haven’t won any prestigious awards, and I’m still working in the legal field. Like many authors, I struggle to balance marketing efforts and writing. But I’m about to launch a second mystery series with Henery Press, and my first series has a solid following.
Am I glad I didn’t give up? Absolutely.
Some people win the lottery, others save for a lifetime to do the things they love. There has been no publishing lottery for me. It’s been a journey of working hard, studying the industry and learning craft so that each project can be better than the last. And I’m grateful for every moment of it.
WENDY TYSON has written four published crime novels, including Dying Brand, the third novel in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series, which was released on May 5, 2015. The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Examiner.com. Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, is due to be released on March 29, 2016. She lives with her family on a micro-farm near Philadelphia.
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