Our next guest blogger is the amazing, New York Times Bestselling Author, Maria V. Snyder, whom I got to know through Seton Hill University. Her newest book “Shadow Study” just came out. Maria’s website and contact information is below her entry.
My very first writing attempt was while I attended Penn State University as an undergraduate meteorology major. I started a science fiction novel about a girl who had just graduated college and was scuba diving off the coast of Florida. She gets “sucked” into the future while underwater. You see the people of the future were starving because of all the animal extinctions and they used time travel to bring food to their world. Not a bad premise for a SF story, but the execution…awful! The attempt was abandoned after one chapter.
When I graduated Penn State, I found employment as an environmental meteorologist for a consulting firm. Work came in waves and during the “lulls” I started writing cheesy SF short stories. I attended a writing conference in Philadelphia and submitted one of them to a professor who was teaching the short story workshop. The professor provided feedback and gave me a 7 out of 10 possible points. I asked her if I had any talent and she said the 7 was one of the higher marks. Thrilled, I kept writing. If she had told me I didn’t have an aptitude for writing, I would have stopped and found something else to do!
I tried to sell my short stories to the various short story magazines like Asimov’s and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Nothing sold. Eventually I sparked on an idea for a fantasy novel about a poison taster and began writing. During this time, I took classes and attended writing conferences all to learn about the craft and business of writing. I also found a writing critique group and they were wonderful with feedback and providing motivation. I wrote one chapter a month so I had something to handout to my critique group.
When I finished Poison Study, I revised it a couple times and thought I had a pretty good story. I sent it to literary agents first. Forty agents rejected it. Then I made a list of publishers who accepted unagented submissions. The list had 20 markets. Starting with number 1, I mailed what they requested (mostly the first 3 chapters and a synopsis). The rejections rolled in. One after the other. Lots of ice cream and chocolate therapy ensued. 😉
While the rejections piled up on my desk, I considered doing other types of writing. In June 2003, I submitted a bunch of non-fiction article ideas to a number of local magazines, I applied to Seton Hill University’s graduate school for a Masters in writing (I liked to teach so maybe I could teach writing), I submitted a proposal to write a thirty-year history of a local candy company, and I sent Poison Study to this new imprint at Harlequin called LUNA Books – they were number eighteen on my list of publishers – I only had two left and I was determined to send my book to them all.
All summer I waited for replies. Nothing. September came and went without a single letter or phone call. Was this a sign that writing wasn’t my thing? Should I go back to meteorology?
I’ll never forget October 3, 2003. Never! The phone rings and a woman with a British accent is on the other end. At first, I thought it was for my husband since his job takes him all over the world, but she asks for me. She’s an editor with LUNA Books and loves Poison Study. Blink. Blink. Blink. Excuse me, but could you say that again? She wants to buy Poison Study and a second book. I have a second right? Uh…Yes, of course! (actually no, but I had a year to write what would become Magic Study).
Happy dances ensued and squeally phone calls to my husband, mother, neighbor, and strangers—yes, I was that excited. What a wonderful feeling and how could life get any better? Well…the next week I received a phone call from an editor at Harrisburg Magazine. She loved my article ideas and could I write four articles for her. Uh…sure. No problem! Then a letter arrived soon after. Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to graduate school! Wow, that’s…er…fantastic. Another phone call announced that my proposal to write the candy company’s history has been accepted. Here’s money, go write the book! Gulp!
You know the expression, “someday your ship will come in” – well, in October 2003, a whole flotilla arrived and my port was full! Amazing!
One piece of advice that I heard over and over again during all that time was persistence and I really didn’t think it’d work, but in my case it did! Persistence also helped me to write all those articles, finish Magic Study, research the candy company, and attend graduate school.
You’d think an acceptance of my novel would have given me more confidence for writing fiction, but Poison Study had been rejected fifty-seven times, and, in the back of my mind, I suspected LUNA Books only bought it to be nice. Yes, I know it was silly, but that was how I thought until I attended Book Expo in New York City the summer before Poison Study was published. Not only was my editor excited about the book, but the sales team was gushing, the PR staff was thrilled, and the Barnes & Noble book buyer stopped to talk to me. It was fantastic and it made me realized that they weren’t being “nice” and that I had talent.
I continued to write and teach. My thirteenth novel, Shadow Study was just released, and I have also published seventeen short stories, and dozens of articles. I’ve been on the New York Times bestseller list, won eight awards, and my books have been translated into sixteen languages.
So my career is well established and I don’t ever receive rejections anymore. Right? Wrong! I still get rejections for my novel ideas and short stories. I’m determined to have a short story published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction before I die! And a short creative non-fiction piece of mine was just rejected by Seton Hill’s literacy magazine! My bruised ego didn’t hurt too long as they did accept a couple of my photographs. But still!
Now I’m working on novel number fourteen and it’s a huge lumbering beast – I wish I could tell you writing gets easier with success, but it doesn’t. In fact, now I worry about disappointing my readers and writing the same plot over and over again. But I look at my stack of books and think, I did this before and I can do it again, just keep on persisting, keep on putting the words down.
And don’t give up. Ever!