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Friday, July 29, 2011


I was at a writer’s conference recently where various speakers took the stage to give their version of  “The Marvel That Is Me.” speech. 

One performed the, “Aw, shucks, I’m just a regular guy, writing regular guy stuff,” talk. 

Another chose the “Forgive my tears but I find myself and my professional journey unbearably touching” talk.

And the third delivered the, “I deserve my success because I worked way harder, way longer than any of you slackers” speech. 
This is not to imply that my presentations are any less riddled with narcissism. The point is that all these presenters were attempting to create a coherent narrative of why they had succeeded in a realm where so many fail. 
And, as annoying as these speeches can be, they address a subject that attendees at writers’ conferences are eager to hear about. The question of -- What separates the speakers from the listeners? What information can be gleaned to transform today’s listeners into tomorrow’s speakers?  
Some writers may believe the narratives they trot out for the unpublished. But most of the writers I know are privately, just as flummoxed by their good fortune as their conference audiences. And whereas the wanna-bes may believe that their lives will be bliss evermore once they get published, the old-timers know that success is punctuated with failure and that you win a few, and lose all the rest. 

Rejections are sprinkled throughout, but with each we worry that our most recent success will be our last with nothing ahead but the hell of the has-beens and used-to-bes. 
Getting published is one hurdle. Staying published is another. And both rely largely on chance and the changing whim of fashion and finance ... or in other words; Luck.  

The luck to find the right editor at the right house for the right book at the right time.

How maddening to know that we can work so damn hard, and still be at the mercy of luck! On the other hand, how fabulous that luck can still strike!


PS Let me know you're out there! Comment!


Lisa Gruen said...

What Luck A Duck!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Yup. It's a lot about luck. You are one of the most talented authors I read and I know you still struggle and worry.
This is Susan. I know more actors than writers and it's the same in the acting field. There are hundred's of talented actors out there you've never heard of. I'm one of them. My ex husband, Barry Corbin, was an unknown till he got Urban Cowboy at age 38. His best friend, G.W. Bailey, who is now a regular on The Closer, has been up and down so many times that it's impossible to count them. At one point after Police Academy 4 or 7, he went back to school to get a degree so he could earn a living as a teacher. I remember when no one had heard of either of them and they were just as good then as they are now.

I shouldn't comment at midnight.

Debby G. said...

Good post! It's a pet peeve of mine when speakers at writing conferences do nothing but tell their life stories. I imagine most writers (such as moi) would much rather get takeaway tips on making their writing better.

Alexa Young said...

I love you. Stay bold. XOXO

Anonymous said...

So true, m'dear!

Mizz Murphy said...

In that case, I'll dust off my ol' rabbit's foot, rub the laughing Buddha's belly, and keep my eyes open for heads-up pennies on the sidewalk. Oh wait, I already do those things. Guess that means I have to finish my dang book!

imp said...

Totally true! I'm waiting for some fresh luck, as I sit at my day job desk. It's hard to feel close one day and ohsofar the next, but 'tis the writer's life. (Oh, my use of 'tis annoys me but I will leave it.)

Anonymous said...

From Susan Patron: I love hearing writers talk about their lives. Are they being narcissistic? I'm not so sure. Tips on writing and on publication can be fairly easily found, but that life story (Christopher Paul Curtis working for 13 years on an automobile assembly line; Betsy Byers, with four children under the age of 8 or 9, writing her first novel at the kitchen table) can be inspirational. Maybe it's one way for the speaker to reaffirm that we have to be passionate and persistent and pretty damn stubborn in this business. And luck certainly doesn't hurt!

Betty B said...

Once, when I got published, a friend said I was lucky and I lost it! I felt she had discounted years and years of hard work and sacrifice put down to mere luck! And yet, luck is part of everything, every day. So I guess I agree with Susan that sometimes hearing those stories help you push on? Or, on another day, throw up your hands! (I still look for four-leaf clovers in my backyard - been looking my whole life).

Lisa Yee said...

I was waiting around for luck to hit me, and when it didn't I got to work . . . and then I got lucky.

Amy Goldman Koss said...

XOXO Y'all!
and XOXO some more!

Kristen Kittscher said...

You always crack me up and make me think with your honest posts, Amy. Thanks! Now what would your version of The Marvel that is Me speech look like?

Lisa said...

It sure is fun to read good writing. I enjoy yours very much.

Sarah Skilton said...

Great post and so relatable. For me, it's hardest to hear stories from established writers about how they "just fell into writing and couldn't tell ya how!" or that they struck gold on the first whim, and yet, luck and timing do play a huge part in success.