Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PRESSURE

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?

“Like a River has vaulted to my top-five favorite war stories ever. It’s a war story, a thriller, a romance—all that and more. Meticulously researched and brilliantly written, Like a River will transport you into a story you won’t want to end. Call Like a River unforgettable. A stunning debut!”
—Jerry Spinelli, Newbery Medalist for Maniac Magee
 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My answer was to talk to several writer friends (both published and unpublished) about it.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?

12 comments:

  1. I think we all feel pressure, but the ones for published authors are different. And I'm guessing the pressure to produce a second novel just as good is a common one. Congrats on your new book! You've got a great review and blurb.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't get published early on. A younger Me might not have been able to handle it.

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  2. Not sure if my first comment came through or not--so here I go again. Happy for your accomplishments and cheering you on as you push forward to #2! Looking forward to reading "LIke a River."

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I hope you enjoy it. I am definitely pushing forward.

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  3. Congratulations! Just getting a review from Kirkus is an accomplishment, and you got the gold star.
    How do I deal with the pressure? I just don't think about it.
    And cool - your book comes out the same day as Dragon. (And EE Giorgi's book.) We should have a joint celebration!

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    1. Absolutely! Here's to great launches for all of us!

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  4. So many accolades for Like a River already and it's not even published yet. You have arrived, Kathy. You put in the time and definitely know how to write books. As long as you keep writing what interests you and keep up to your high standards, you will be a success, no matter the topic.

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    1. Thanks, Kim. I will try to live up to the confidence you & others have expressed.

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  5. That is fantastic. Congratulations! I don't think writers ever get past those insecurities, but a starred review from Kirkus is good for at least a boost!

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    1. Thanks, Shannon. You're probably right about the insecurities. I still have to remind myself that the book being published is real, not to mention the starred review.

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  6. You did it once, you can do it again!! That is awesome. All those other rejected books were just a way for you to sharpen your teeth, so to speak. Enjoy. I'm sure there will be more!

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I will try to remember that. And I will concentrate on enjoying the work.

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