Thursday, February 7, 2013

When Someone You Know Hits the Big Time

I had a really, really cool experience last year. Sometime in October (November?) I got an email from my agent telling me what she'd been up to on the quiet.

See, it turns out that she isn't just Agently Awesomeness, she's also Writerly Wow-ness. Brittany (under her pen-name, Cora Carmack) sold tens of thousands copies of her book LOSING IT in October / November 2012.

Yes, you read that right.

In fact, I could go so far as to say, tens of thousands of books in days. That, my friends, is a feat I'd give my left knee to duplicate.

She then went on to garner a huge, multi-book contract with HarperCollins (because they saw the Wow in her writerlyness and wanted a slice).

So, sometime in early November (I think), Brittany let me and her other clients in on the secret. But we had to keep it under wraps because at that point the world didn't know Brittany Howard was AKA
Cora Carmack.

Not being able to shout her success on my blog was frustrating. This is big news, people! But it also gave me a chance to analyze how I felt about an author I knew and loved achieving what I wanted to
achieve. (Note aforementioned willingness to sacrifice body-parts to the cause).

I'm going to be really honest here, because I think it's important to face this stuff from a place of truth, not pretense:

I love Brittany. I admire her. I'm cheering for her - and meaning it. And I'll do everything I can to support her career as a writer (as well as, hopefully, contribute to her career as an agent). But I'm not
above some petty, selfish jealousy. I'm capable of simultaneously being excited for someone, and wishing it was me:

"God, if my friends become best sellers, does that mean they took my spot?"

"God, are you teasing me? Is this my chance to be close enough to cheer for someone I love, but also find out exactly what I'm missing?"

"God, will it ever be my turn?"

Now, maybe you don't direct your Big Questions to the Big Guy, but I suspect I'm not the first person to feel this way. Sometimes when we've been writing, trying, editing, crying, working for years without achieving the end-goal, discouragement gets served up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But what I learned in the past couple months is, that moment where you start to wonder if you're chasing a pipe-dream you have only two options:

1. Decide that it will never happen for you, give up, and take up crocheting instead.

2. Decide that you won't give up. No matter what the odds, the potential end result is worth striving for.

I choose option two. Not because I'm awesome and untouched by the baser feelings. But because it's literally pointless to wallow in that kind of energy.

Only God knows if I'll ever reach my goal of becoming an NYT Bestseller. There's nothing I can do about the not knowing. All I can do is keep writing. Keep learning. Keep practising and improving.
Because, seriously, what do we gain by second-guessing, jealousy, or self-pity? I'm asking that question for real: What do we gain?

Answer: Nothing but pain.

I've decided I'd rather spend the next decade trying to reach my ultimate goal and failing, than giving up and always wondering what would have happened if I'd kept going.

This way, in ten years at least I'll know the answer to that question. And that's a good enough goal in itself. That's one I know I can attain.

As a point of interest, I talked to Brittany about this post before I put it up. She had this gem of wisdom for me:

"You never know which book will be the one. LOSING IT wasn't even in my normal genre. Just write. Write always. Write whatever captures your attention, and success will surprise you when you least expect it."

Though Brittany AKA Cora's rise was meteoric, this wasn't her first book. In fact, she started writing with the goal of publication in January 2008. She worked on four novels - some of them for years - before Losing It. She wrote Losing It in less than a month, solely for fun, without aiming for publication. It's outside her usual genre, and written under a pen name.

And it's a huge success.

Your Turn: What are your dreams? What are you reaching for that you'll never know until you try? And what goal can you set that is entirely in your control?


  1. I think this is why the writing community is so amazing: we do get to see the people we love, read for, critique for, tweet with, go on to to do such amazing things in such a supportive and friendly community.

    I mean, how great is that?

    I, for one, am always going to be writing just because I will hopefully live a good, long life and frankly, WHAT ELSE AM I GOING TO DO? :)

    Brittany, I think you're awesome and I love being part of Team Brittany with Aimee and my other agency sisters. <3 This was the coolest news when I found out!

    1. I know, right! I love our team. So nice to have cheerleaders AND shoulders to cry on.

      Plus, I get to watch your book go to the shelves, too :)

  2. I admire your honesty, agency sistah. Don't stop believin', yo.

    Watching it happen for someone you admire is proof that it happens at all.

  3. Your honesty is awesome. It's why I continue to come to this blog. I would prefer one entry like this than a hundred of the other kind where authors are just feigning to be completely excited for someone's success while they don't get crap.

  4. I love the honesty too! I would be exactly the same. I think it is possible to celebrate someone's success and be jealous at the same time. Hopefully we can convert that jealousy into motivation and keep writing.

  5. Such a great post on a lot of levels. I have a friend on the brink of huge success and although I'm her biggest cheerleader there is always a human part that wishes it was me. My attitude - keep on cheering - I know my friend put in a lot of hard yards, and it's easy to see the result and not the years of slog behind getting to that point.

    On the other hand - I love Brittany's advice of following the writerly muse whether it's in genre or not!

    1. I'm willing to bet your friend values your cheering more than you realize. And whatever success she attains, she'll cheer just as loud for yours.

      And yes, Brittany's words re genre got me thinking too....

  6. Very encouraging. It is hard to have writing friends and not also secretly wish you were as successful (or more) than they. Congrats to our agent and thanks for the post!