7/14/22

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This past weekend, I led the AllWriters’ Annual Retreat. It was our first one since Covid hit, but I believe our 14th overall, and it was a cause for great celebration. I hosted 26 writers from 8 states for 4 days under 1 roof, at Mount Mary University in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. I lectured, I led workshops, I met with everyone in one-on-one consultations, I made sure everyone was fed, and I ran, ran, ran. And it was marvelous. I am never so happy as when I’m fully in my element, and my element is writing. In this little microcosm of the writing world, I surrounded myself with writers and I talked about writing and we all lived in a world of words.

Incredible.

I noticed, though, that there was a common theme cropping up in the one-on-one consultations. Many of the writers quietly said to me, “I’m not feeling very confident,” or “I’m not sure I can do this,” or “I’m not sure WHY I’m doing this,” or simply, “I just don’t think I’m very good.” Bear in mind that among these 26 writers, 12 already had books published, and many already had short pieces published. But, “I’m not feeling very confident.”

Recently, the company that published my novel, All Told, decided to become an all-hybrid company. This means that the writer pays for some of the costs of publication. This used to be called subsidy publishing, and while it’s a step up from self-publishing, I still don’t support it. I’m a firm believer that writers should be paid for their work. So when I offered this company my next novel, they offered me a hybrid contract. And I offered them a solid no.

Which meant I found myself back at square one. Finding a publisher. I was suddenly without a home for my work.

“I’m not feeling very confident.”

I immediately went into a tailspin. 13 books already published, and I wondered if I was a fluke. I wondered if I was done. If my whole career was over. If there ever was a career to begin with. This new book, which I consider the best I’ve ever written, suddenly became filled with flaws.

But after I finished crying, I sent it out anyway. And it was accepted at another publisher within 48 hours.

“I’m not feeling very confident.”

I’ve written before about my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Fatticci, who, after hearing me read what turned out to be a short story in front of my class, breathed, “Oh my god, Kathie, you’re a writer!” There was also Mr. Salt in the 8th grade. I had to read a story in front of that class too, and after I sat down, I began scribbling furiously on my paper, rewriting everything, because I was convinced it was terrible. When I glanced up, Mr. Salt was looking directly at me, and he mouthed, “You are SO good!”

And there was Mr. Stein in high school. On the back of one of my stories, which I still have 45 years later, he wrote in red ink that I was gifted. But, he wrote, with giftedness comes a responsibility. And he went on about how I had to use that gift. How I had to give back to the world. How being gifted didn’t mean it would be easy. But I had a responsibility to keep at it and never ever give up.

Never give up.

“I’m not feeling very confident.”

And well, I’m a teacher now too, aren’t I. My element isn’t just writing (as if writing could ever have a “just” in front of it), but teaching.

And so, one by one, I told them about my recent crisis of confidence. And I also said:

“Oh my god, you’re a writer!”

“You are SO good!”

“You have a responsibility.”

There are times in your life where you just suddenly find yourself clicking into a niche where you just feel that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. You are doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You BELONG.

I felt that when I signed my 14th book contract, for my novel, Hope Always Rises, which will be released on March 7th, 2023. I felt that all four-day weekend long, as I gave a lecture, led the workshops, and met one on one with all these writers, facing down their “I’m not feeling so confident.”

The 26 writers I sent on their way were all smiling. Will they feel confident for the rest of their lives? Of course not. But will they know where to turn when they need to? Will they hear my words again, just like I hear the words of Mrs. Fatticci, Mr. Salt, and Mr. Stein, over and over and over with each crisis of confidence? Yep.

In my element. Full of joy.

And, oh, by the way. I have another book coming out.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The entire group.
Me, reading at our literary break on Friday. I’m reading from the new book.
Everybody busily working on a creativity exercise.

 

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