“You’ve reached a milestone,” my agent said.
“You’re going to give the nation chills with this book,” she said.
“I’ll send it out to editors on Monday,” she said.
And I was elated. High. Freaking out. Happy as anything. I’d made it to the “on submission” stage. Finally. After twelve years of writing for kids and young adults. Placing in contests. Going to conferences. Publishing in magazines and online journals. Networking. More writing. More writing. More writing. I’d done it.
Then the high wore off. And the waiting started. And I’m waiting. And waiting. And biting my nails to nothing. And distracting myself with more writing and with running and working out and with “Now what can I work on?” and with long walks with my husband where I ask repeatedly, “What if I don’t get picked up?”
Sara Zarr has called this place The In Between. Where you know you are good enough but others have to realize it. Where you know you just need one editor to say they love what you do. The In Between is a scary place. It’s a place of confidence chiseling and soul searching. It’s a place where I have to ask myself over and over, “Why do I do this whole writing thing?”
Everyone is motivated by something. I write because the voices of strange characters in odd places speak and I don’t have a choice but to get up at 3 a.m. and transpose -- like a vehicle for words, an intermediary between the enigmatic well of imagination and the world. So I can’t say I’d stop because a contract didn’t land in my lap. I can’t. Writers write. To watch their own manipulation of words create meanings and emotions and elicit responses. Whether I elicit those responses from my husband, my friends, the several hundred that subscribe to an online journal, or a nation, I’m still up at 3 a.m. because some sixteen-year-old, female character with a West Virginian twang is whispering to me that she is about to embark on a journey of a lifetime because she doesn’t want to disappoint her father. Never mind that I’ve never been to West Virginia. Never mind that her voice may never reach a nation. I’m still up, still writing. No choice.
“Hold on,” I tell myself.
“Keep writing down what you hear,” I say.
“Give yourself chills with the words you create.”