Love,❤️ ALBA, rejection and the Writer’s Despair

Well, the time has come to talk about my new novel, LOVE, ALBA which comes out August 10, and why I wrote it, and why I decided to self publish, and how dismayed and discouraged I became when I found that my agent could not find a publisher: because there must be many writers, successful or just starting out, who can benefit from my experience and boy! have I learnt a lot! I had just published The Treasure of Montségur, a pretty serious novel set in 13th century France. This is a period that makes living in the 21st Century look like a piece of cake! In that book, I was exploring how you find hope and joy under sickening circumstances. This is always the way with writing: “We do not write in order to be understood,” wrote C. Day Lewis. “We write in order to understand.” Afterwards I wanted to write something light-hearted, fun, sweet, because this is truly a beautiful world. I wanted to write a simple love story, which actually turned into three love stories intertwining—and it would have something to do with aging, with illicit or forbidden love, with friendship, sacrifice, and breaking the cultural conditioning that keeps us from meeting our true potential. And it would be told by a cat. Why? Well, my beloved cat, Alba, had recently died. I thought about her a lot, the most beautiful and perfect cat, thoughtful, loving, playful, observant. I thought a witty, wise little cat as narrator might see into dimensions that the “2-leggeds” could not; she could offer commentary and advice that we humans need. Like: It always surprises me when the 2-leggeds hate themselves… who would you like, if not yourself? After I finished Love, Alba I discovered my agent could not sell it. Whoa! I was shocked! Is it that bad? Good gracious, 1, 052,803 books were published in the US in 2009, and each year since more than a million books are published! With my track record (thirteen books, three on the bestseller lists) no one woul4_for_writers_onlyBGd publish Love, ❤Alba? My agent sent it to twelve publishers. “I can’t think of anyone else to send it to,” she reported. I was shaken. In my book, For Writers Only, I have a chapter on rejections: Robert Pirsig received 120 rejections before publishing his bestseller, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The bestselling novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull went to forty publishers; John Creasy, an English mystery writer racked up 734 rejections before selling his first book, and went on to write 600 more books under 28 pseudonyms. The list of rejected bestselling authors is frightening (or hopeful). For the writer, though, it’s emotionally damaging. You doubt yourself. Doubt your work. (Not to have an audience is a kind of death,” wrote Tillie Olsen.) Then last summer I picked up the manuscript that I had put away for more than two years. “But this is really good!” I thought. “They’re wrong.” Here’s a quote from Saul Bellow (also found in my book, For Writers Only)*: I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’” (*For Writers Only was written for myself during a particularly dry period, when I could get nothing published. I wrote six books in eight years. I wrote FWO to encourage myself in the lonely days of creating, when I cried a lot and fell prey to fear, despair, and the critical disdain of my Inner Judge. I wrote it to remind myself that it is the business of the writer to WRITE! It’s available at bookstores and at Amazon.  I recommend it for anyone creative: it’s “Not For Writers Only.”) Now I’ve talked enough for my first blog. Later I’ll tell you what LOVE, ALBA is about and how different it is from a lot of books being published now: (Which could be why it could not find a publisher) and in a later blog I’ll tell what I’ve learned about self-publishing. Right now, my advice to all new writers, and to all those writers today who are discouraged: Keep on! Trust yourself! Write every day. Remember the French proverb: “Only he who does nothing makes a mistake.” Or this, from Samuel Beckett: Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

7 thoughts on “Love,❤️ ALBA, rejection and the Writer’s Despair

  1. Hey, Sophy! I always enjoy reading everything that you write, but this one has special meaning for me because I have a book that I’m self-publishing, and it’s been really hard.

    It’s called “Drinks of Living Water: Walking with Jesus the Messiah,” and is a collection of devotionals that I have sent friends online over the years.

    Will look forward to reading “Love, ❤ Alba”!

    Also, I will keep looking forward to seeing you the next time I am in DC . . . Not sure when that will be, but I could never stay away from it very long.

    Blessings and love — Kathy

    • It’s a bitch, isn’t it? It has taken me months and months to get the text proofed and corrected and corrected again (and again) and now finally I have the cover, which of course I forgot to add to the blog: next time.
      Would love to see you when you’re next in DC. Call me.

  2. Thanks for this. I self published two books I wrote and will be doing the same with my third. BUT with your beautiful writing and your reputation. I am shocked. Is it because there are fewer and fewer publishers?Looking forward to reading it.

  3. Hi Sophy, An interesting post. I have your book on Writing and enjoyed it so much. I’ll be eager to read Love, Alba, in August. (With the heart inserted.) It sounds like a fascinating story.

    My manuscript is sent off and the waiting begins. If we don’t hear anything in about two months, then I’ll think about doing it myself. You are now experienced in this process and may have some tips for the inexperienced. You say you might have advice about the subject to put in your blog. So I will be looking. Good luck for the book launch.

    Mother’s Day… Many good wishes to you on Sunday. Some of my kids will put together a brunch they say, and eggs and bacon are my favorites.

    Love from Charlotte x

    Charlotte C. Royal

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Dear Sophy, You know I am a big fan of LOVE, ALBA! Well, it’s crazy what commercial publishers are turning down these days. But I think one of the big disconnects is that they are, in essence, a kind a bureaucracy that markets a commodity, whereas a work of literary art needs vision, it needs love. Sometimes it works, I mean, a work of literary art can be taken up into the maw of, say Random House, zoom out into the world and sell. But oftentimes it’s a nutty mismatch. You know that I too have my war stories. All of which is say, yay! I can’t wait to see the cover!

    • Let’s hear LOTS of war stories. I can use them, and so can others.
      I’ll be talking more about it in future posts. I heard today that mainstream publishing forms only 20-30% of the books being published! Don’t know if it is true. Need to do some research, but it COULD be: all anyone needs to bring out a book now is $$. We don’t even have to grind our own ink or scrape the hide off a skin to form parchment or soak the papyrus to make paper. Gosh, we don’t even need PAPER!

  5. Hello, Sophy. I just found you today [5-26-15] through Dori Ostermillers e-mail in my box. I enjoyed your blog. Yes, plain and simple. Why? Well, I have been writing for a few years just because I was inspired to put words/thoughts to paper. it’s only been since 2010 when I joined the Wachusett Writers and Poets Group in Westminster, MA that I have entertained publishing any of it. Our group was all excited over learning about self-publishing with Create-Space but dismayed by finding out how difficult it actually was. As for myself, I have been exploring what is available;;it’s a daunting world out there.

    I am into about 100 pages of a Recovery from M.T.B.I. Memoir, my major endeavor, because I have to write it. My Self responded to that quote from C. Day Lewis you put in your blog. In some ways, I think we can be writing to be understood, also, or wanting to be. I think I feel that may be the inspirational source of some of my spontaneous writing.

    I have read many comments about the difficulties of becoming published. The primary hitch is MONEY. Then comes the Marketing. I have grave concerns about both. The first, none; the second, some disability. It scares me, somewhat, about arranging public showings, whatever it’s called. It would be physically overwhelming for me.

    By the way, the tack you took with “Love, Alba” sounds interesting. I have had special cats, too. My last was Queen in our home, Michelle, a Maine Coon Cat; died 4 years ago and I can still feel her presence. I wrote a story about her that I’d like to share.

    I’ll be looking for your blogs in my mail.

Please feel free to leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s