“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

Last week, I received news no writer really likes to receive – a rejection on a work of fiction that I sent to a major New York publisher.

For me, to receive this rejection was a joy of sorts.

Some of you know that I write fiction. I’ve done so at a rather steady and sometimes prolific rate since my early 30s. Actually, it goes back to my teens when I first started writing fiction. And ideas for stories go back even further than that. Let’s just say I’ve been contemplating this practice since I was around 12 years old — a long time.

In September, I submitted a ‘finished’ manuscript of a book that has been percolating in my head for many years. I sent it to Harlequin, the major romance publishing company that doesn’t require an agent for some of its imprints. Long-time Harlequin Editor Patience Bloom emailed me back and had very positive and constructive comments about the story. Ultimately, though, the piece needs more work.

I was thrilled to receive this news — not that it wasn’t accepted. For me, that wasn’t really the entire point of pitching the story to Patience and submitting the whole story to her.

My point is that I finally submitted my fiction to a publisher. I put skin in the game. Having it accepted for publication was almost secondary to why I did it.

Color coordinated book spines

I’ve been a paid writer for almost half my life, as a journalist, a marketing, public relations and communications professional, and a free-lance magazine and newspaper writer. There’s always been this voice in my head though that says to me, ‘what about your fiction?’ I hear it almost every day. I hear it in the wee small hours of the morning. Sometimes the voice screams at me, ‘What about your fiction?!!!!!!’

I felt terrified to pitch and then send my story. Sometimes when you overthink things, the ‘threat’ of rejection and judgment becomes conflated in your brain. That’s exactly what has happened with me. Sometimes we get in the way of our own success (or rejection) and we fail to even try to do something.

By the way, here’s the pitch:

Small town girl Amelia Addison, 25, is coming to terms with the impending death of her estranged father Daniel when she literally crashes into sweet, goofy restoration expert Joe McKellar, 31, who has designs not only on renovating her grandparents’ old Victorian farmhouse kitchen, but also convincing her he wants to be more than just a silly ‘older brother’ figure to her.

Though Amelia does everything to ignore Joe’s playful and often immature teasing – including falling into a torrid physical relationship with her sophisticated and worldly older boss – she finds Joe is the man who finally convinces her to leave behind her self-contained world. He shows her how to live beyond her imagination and love despite loss.

Pitching my story and sending the manuscript was like kicking down a wall of fear for me. It was scary, but it was exhilarating too!

It’s hard to write a book. It’s hard to finish it. It’s hard to make edits and changes. It takes courage to share that book with someone. It felt a bit like sending my ‘children’ off to New York City, on their own, unprotected.

It’s a bit scary to even post this blog and to share with others that I write fiction! But, as I’ve read before, life begins outside of your comfort zone.

Now that my ‘children’ have returned from New York, I feel victorious that I had the courage to put a piece of myself out there. I love my first completed story – a book with the working title, “Restoration.” But, it’s a work in progress.

I have many other stories that I have been ‘constructing’ for many years. It takes time and real effort to finish a book, to complete the story arcs, to get to know your characters and to make them three dimensional. It takes perhaps even more time to research the market, to determine if you need an agent, or to just send it to a publishing company yourself. These days, many people bypass the whole process and publish their own fiction, an option that has its own benefits and drawbacks.

I so admire those fellow creative individuals, whether it be writers, artists or whomever, who have the courage to follow their passion, put themselves out there, and to share part of who they are with others. For me, it’s a process, one day at a time. It’s a labor of love and it’s an act of courage to be vulnerable.

Here’s looking to the new year and fresh acts of bravery.

BTW, here’s a link to Patience’s book, “Romance is my Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last.” It’s a great read!