Guest Post by Christina St. Clair. Please visit her here.
This is a love story of sorts, but not the traditional boy meets girl, they get hot for one another, they eventually tumble into the bed and live happily ever after. Such a beautiful fairytale, we all know, does not exist in real life, especially in relationships which, in order to deepen, take work, persistence, insight, and time.
So it is with the writing life, at least so it has been with mine. Writing seemed a way I might quench a longing I couldn't even name. When I was at my father's funeral in
, I began telling stories to my small nephews. It seemed to me perhaps I could turn this interest in story-telling into a refreshing way of living. How hard could it be? I became convinced my words would be worthwhile enough for people to pay me money, enabling me to live freely, roam the world, and never again have to work in a nine-to-five job. Success would surely come. England
My first children's novels, I wrote feverishly, full of excitement. I studied the genre, I attended workshops, I went to writers' conferences, I joined the SCBWI, I constantly read the best in children's literature. I sent out my manuscripts time and time again. The result was hardly any affirmation, and certainly no novels accepted for publication by major publishers. I did get a monetary award for a YA historical fiction novel, which convinced me my novel would sell. It did not.
Yeah, well--I can see other writers nodding their heads…
My thirst did not abate, but after twenty years of effort, I was ready to throw in the writer's towel, heartbroken at all the rejections, convinced of the utter futility of continuing. Along came a writer friend, Eddy Pendarvis, who, like me, was a big fan of Pearl Buck's work. It aggravated us that Buck never received sufficient acclaim for her writing achievements. In spite of winning a Nobel Prize in literature, her work was strongly criticized by the literary establishment, and still is today. We wanted to find ways to promote her best works, to acclaim this woman of high achievement and high principled altruism. Doesn't that make you think of children's literature writers? We little knew where our ideas would lead, but we wrote a children's story.
Eddy led the way. She knew a Chinese scholar, Berlin Fang, who'd helped translate Peter Conn's
Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography into Chinese. suggested we send our work to the Chinese publisher. It seemed an unlikely hope, but we gave it a try. We were offered a contract to complete the work: no royalty agreements, no definite yes to publication, merely an agreement the book might be something this publisher could use if we got it to them on time in the length they wanted. No money, friends said, for all that work. Don't do it! When you have hardly made a penny for your work for years, it didn't seem a big deal to decide we weren't in this for the big bucks, but for the Buck book (forgive the pun). We had nothing to lose. Berlin
While we sipped tea at Tim Horton's, we talked about what to write, nurturing each other's suggestions, eventually coming up with twenty chapter ideas. A lot of reading and research ensued. If ever I love to do something, it is looking up facts, and letting them blossom into who knows what. It was pure nectar following leads, trying to get facts straight, writing something tailored for Chinese students.
Our deadline loomed: we met in
, where Pearl S. Buck was born, to participate in the Pearl S. Buck International Writers' Conference. Eddy orchestrated our participation, and Eddy insisted I come along. What a good friend! Others too ( Kitty Griffin, Marie Manilla, Laura Bentley, Philip St. Clair, Kathy Combs, Jim Gifford, Susan Caldwell to name a few), have turned my writing life from arid desert to crystal waters. Eddy had obligations to fulfill at the event, but in between, we worked feverishly, putting our chapters together, smoothing out the writing, trying to get rid of the overlapping ideas we'd both used. As I recall, at the end of the evening before we retired to our tiny room in a B & B, we sipped on fruit wine (Yes, Kathy, I am still drinking wine). Hillsboro, WV
Eddy fed our completed chapters to
who, with great mastery of both languages, translated them into Chinese. We agreed on a three-way split of royalties. Berlin
Before long, we sent the best version we could manage to the publisher. It seemed to take forever, but eventually a contract arrived. We signed it. The book we co-authored, Between Two Worlds: a Biography of Pearl S. Buck, was eventually released by the Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press in
as an English/Chinese reader. China
The published book, beautifully illustrated on good stock, filled us with satisfaction. We three (two writers and one translator) received royalty checks for about $200 each--not a huge sum, but a reminder of the power of friendship, persistence, connectedness. For me, as well, this book gave hope for other writing projects.
My urge to write had definitely been encouraged. I rewrote, reformatted, revised and sent out tighter versions of two young adult novels. I gave up worrying about the outcome, I stopped needing anyone to tell me my work was good enough, and I accepted whatever happened. At last, two publishers offered me contracts. Instead of Harper Collins or Holt (do they even exist anymore?), my books got taken on by Bloodmoon and Rogue Phoenix.
The big publishers didn't want my novels, which certainly humbled me, but these e-publishers with funky names said yes. At first, I felt despondent: Blood moon, I muttered to myself, Rogue
? But, you know, it's been a wonderful experience. The editor and publisher, Christine Young (RoguePhoenix), has given me insightful suggestions greatly improving my historical fiction novel. Marlene Satter (aka Lee Barwood), my editor at Bloodmoon, whose supernatural novels inspire me, is a psychic soul mate. Her book, Some Cost a Passing Bell, available on Amazon, is a book about mystical gifts used for love of Mother Earth. Phoenix
I believe I can hear the universe chuckling. I am laughing too, no longer concerned about money or recognition, simply enjoying the process, whether good and bad, for no doubt I have become a better writer, and hopefully I am a deeper person. I feel as if I am drinking sweet water from a freshly dug well.