When you Have a Writing Community You Never Go it Alone

By Lynne Constantine

I’ll never forget receiving my first rejection letter.

I knew how slim the changes of being published were, but I thought I’d be different. I went to the mailbox with expectancy and optimism every day and was elated when I saw that first envelope bearing a literary agent’s return address (yes, it was that long ago that I started writing). My heart sank when I tore it open and found a standard form letter – thanks, but no thanks. I picked my heart off the floor, took a deep breath, and told myself the rejection was a fluke. I was confident that the next agent would rush to sign me and easily sell my book to one of the big publishing houses. Countless letters later and still no contract – I had to accept the harsh reality that, if I wanted to succeed at this thing called “writing,” I had to learn to live with rejection.

It takes a strong element of self-confidence and faith in your work in order to even send that query. So when you get back dozens of responses telling you that it’s not up to snuff, it can mess with your head. We’re told we must be resilient, have thick skins, and expect rejection – lots of it. But knowing that in the abstract and experiencing it personally are two very different things.

What makes one person give up while another preserves? The need to create must be stronger than the need to find acceptance, and the willingness to work on your craft and become a better writer is paramount.

Deep down, we all hope for that Cinderella story and “instant” success—however we define success. But that’s not why I write. I write because when I don’t, I feel an emptiness that nothing else can fill. So I kept at it, sporadically, but my writing began to wane after my children were born, and I filled my days with other pursuits. Before I knew it, ten years had passed, and the thriller I’d been working on was still unfinished.

Then I found ThrillerFest. Everything changed after those magical four days in July. I sat in workshop after workshop, typing notes as fast as I could on my laptop. I was overwhelmed by the sheer talent in those rooms and their willingness to pay it forward. I left the conference refreshed and inspired. I ended my writing hiatus and got back to work. I spent the next four years working on my craft through mentors and classes, finishing my thriller, and starting two new collaborations with my sister, Valerie.

It was at ThrillerFest that I first met Anthony Franze, who became a good friend and referred me to Jaime Levine, the fabulous editor who became the developmental editor on my thriller, THE VERITAS DECEPTION. When it was time for the line edits, Jaime had accepted a position as the publisher with Diversion Books so she referred me to another editor, Gretchen Stelter. Gretchen was so invaluable that Valerie and I asked her to edit our third collaboration, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, last spring. This was the book that we both knew in our bones was “the one.”

Gretchen helped us to see that we had a structural issue undercutting the tension and helped us arrive at a solution. It was a simple fix, but one that made all the difference and, without which, the book could have ended up a near miss. Gretchen and Jaime both recommended we send THE LAST MRS. PARRISH to Bernadette Baker-Baughman with Victoria Sanders and Associates. We did, two weeks prior to ThrillerFest.

This was where our own Cinderella story came true.  We’d arranged to meet Bernadette right before PitchFest but still had no idea whether or not she’d liked our submission. By this time, I was conditioned to expect rejection and figured if she’d liked it, I’d have already heard. I knew Jaime was having lunch with Bernadette that day. Over coffee that morning, I told Jaime that we’d hoped not to have to go to PitchFest, but had better not squander the opportunity in case Bernadette wasn’t interested. An hour before PitchFest I got the text that elicited a joyous scream from me. It was from Jaime:

You don’t have to go to PitchFest if you don’t want to.

An hour later, Valerie and I rushed to the lobby to meet Bernadette. From the minute we said  hello, we knew she was the agent for us. Her warmth and graciousness was apparent—it felt like the perfect fit. She told us how much she loved the book, how excited she was to talk to us about it. If it was possible, she seemed to love it even more than we did! Standing in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt, Bernadette offered to represent us, and we accepted on the spot. Finally, it all made sense. I understood exactly what those other agents had meant when they told me that we deserved to have an agent who would champion our work.

The rest of the weekend was a happy blur, as our friends congratulated us on our good fortune. After coming to ThrillerFest for five years, there was no better place for it to happen. At the banquet we were able to meet Victoria Sanders, and we felt an instant connection with her as well. Six days later, Bernadette called us to let us know she had a preemptive offer on THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, and by the end of the day, we sold to Emily Griffin with HarperCollins! Our book will come out in October 2017.

Was the journey easy? Not at all. But having to pay my dues not only made me a better writer, it made the realization of my dreams even sweeter. Keep going. Your own success story could be right around the bend.

Lynne Constantine attended Hellenic College where she earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development. She went on to earn her masters degree in Business Administration at Johns Hopkins University. She has an extensive marketing background and over eighteen years of business experience. She left the corporate world in 2000 to pursue her writing full time. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Lynne relocated to the New York area with her husband and children. In addition to her writing, she is active in her church and local community. She is passionate about education, reading, health, and wellness. She enjoys traveling, spending time on the beach and taking walks with her family and their adorable golden retriever. Lynne is a social media consultant and speaker, and is the managing partner of Sound Solutions Consulting Group. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writer’s magazine THE BIG THRILL, and a monthly contributor to Suspense Magazine.

To learn more about The Veritas Deception, click on the cover below: