by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Last week, my editor sent word that my novel, LIKE A RIVER (due out April 7), received a starred Kirkus review. Wow! Kirkus says their stars are “awarded to books of exceptional merit.” Wow again!
Am I thrilled? You bet. But this writer, who has seen truckloads of rejection over the past 40 years, has a hard time simply reveling in this success. After all, someone once said, “A writer is only as good as his most recent book.” And I finished one (my first since LIKE A RIVER) just before Christmas. I am trying to love the new novel, but how can I follow a novel that people rave about? A novel that earned a Kirkus star?
I already felt enormous pressure to write something exceptional, even before the star. I worked too hard for too long to emerge from the slush pile, and I know I don’t want to be a “one-trick pony.” I am finally a published author, and I want to see more of my books in readers’ hands. So how do I handle the strain of this new pressure?
My answer was to talk to several writer friends (both published and unpublished) about it. And I received a lot of good advice. I was told not to let LIKE A RIVER pull my focus away from actually writing. I should do what I always have, one word at a time.
I was told to have confidence in myself and my work. OK, that is easier said than done. Decades of rejection eroded my self-confidence big time. But I can try. And that star lets me know that I CAN DO IT.
The one word I received from every single writer I talked to was, “Celebrate!” So even as I plot out my next novel and wait to hear from my editor on the one I just finished, I am raising a glass and maybe even dancing a little. And I am smiling a lot. I am celebrating! After all, my dream for 40 years was a published novel. I never went so far as to dream of a Kirkus star.
When I sit down to write, I put the star out of my head. I focus on new characters, a new setting, a new storyline. And I remember why I became a writer in the first place. Because I love doing it! Writing makes me happy. With or without a star.
Have you dealt with pressure like this? How did you deal with it?