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    One Writer’s Journey (Thus Far, Anyway)

    Laura Bradford Icon

    This is for all of those writers out there who wonder if it will ever happen…

    I was one of those kids who knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was ten.

    No, I hadn’t read a particular author I wanted to emulate (though I was a HUGE Laura Ingalls Wilder fan) or been groomed by a particular teacher. Truth be told, the desire grew from nothing more than a rainy day. Unable to go outside, my friend appeared at the kitchen table with big sheets of plain white paper, a box full of crayons, and a ruler.

    “Wanna make storybooks?” she asked.


    And that was it. I was off and running

    My first literary creation centered around a small brown polar bear (don’t ask) who decided to give an elderly wolf a chance despite unpleasant rumors. I had a title page, an about-the-author section, and a dedication. The bottom half of each page was where I wrote the words, the top half was where I drew the pictures.

    I was so proud of my efforts I went on to write another story, O’Casey’s Wish. This time my main character was a gnome who desperately wanted to create a real town for his fellow gnomes (I had a mole-way in place of a subway–cute, huh?). I researched the kind of things these smurf-like creatures were rumored to eat and got angry at myself when the pictures didn’t come out just right.

    I still have both those storybooks today. They sit in a file in my office alongside countless manuscripts, royalty statements, conference information, and story ideas. And, every once in a while, I’ll pull them out and take a peek.

    All through the remainder of grammar school and high school, my only career goal–born on that rainy day–was to be a writer.

    College brought the need to establish a major so I pursued journalism. It was a way to get paid (albeit poorly) for doing what I loved most. I wrote news stories, crime articles, profiles, features, and photo captions. I threw myself into learning every facet of small-town journalism I possibly could. And, at the risk of sounding full of myself, I became quite good at what I did.

    But all the while I knew fiction was what I really wanted to write. Fast forward about six years and two children…and I finally got to work.

    Ironically enough, by the time I finally got to my dream, it had changed. I no longer had a desire to write for children. Instead, mysteries had claimed my full attention.

    I worked on my first manuscript over the next four years—mostly in thirty minute spurts here and there (spurts that came with a crawling baby at my feet). Once I got it where I wanted it to be, I turned my attention to the notion of trying to get it published. I garnered a few rejections from agents and revised when someone was kind enough to make a comment. But after two or three agent tries, I decided to submit to a small independent press.

    An initial rejection was followed by a flurry of revisions and a second submission. Weeks turned into months before word finally came. My book had been picked up.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew a small press book was not going to move mountains. Not even close. But I knew the kind of drive I possessed and I knew it would be a stepping stone (while the kids were babies) to bigger things if I played it right.

    And I did.

    Some of my success came from playing it right (conducting myself like a professional at conferences—not always the case with a small press writer), listening rather than talking at said events, and continually trying to better my writing. Some of my success came from a solid story—one that caught the attention of a much larger publisher who decided to re-release that first book for their direct-to-consumer book club. The fact that it sold out inside five months didn’t hurt either.

    The second book in the series launched with the same small press and was also picked up for book club release.

    The third book was my last for the small press. I’d told the stories I wanted to tell for those characters and I was ready to focus my attention on what I really wanted. Sure, it was a gamble to stop writing something that had a home (two homes, in fact), but it was a chance I was ready to take. I wanted to swim in the big pond.

    If I’d continued on the same path, my fourth book would have released this month.

    But I didn’t.

    Instead, I veered off, knowing it was just one leg of a journey I started thirty years ago. And it paid off. Thanks to a deal with Berkley Prime Crime, I’m officially swimming in the big pond (or will be when the first book releases sometime in 2009). Granted, I’m a teeny tiny fish in a very big pond…but I made it in.

    Would I recommend the route I took to every unpublished writer out there? No. A lot of dominoes had to fall at just the right time for my path to work. But it worked. For me.

    What I would recommend, though, is this…

    Read. A lot.

    Write. Every day.

    Learn. At every turn.

    Listen. Always.

    Grow. Continually.

    And never, ever give up.



    Questions? Thoughts? Fire away. If I can’t answer them, perhaps some of our more seasoned big pond writers (and loyal GG readers) can. And remember–we all started off as unpublished, too. So don’t be shy.

    12 Responses to “One Writer’s Journey (Thus Far, Anyway)”

    1. Brown Polar Bears? Well, if the writers of Lost can put polar bears on the tropical island, well…

      Funny thing is, Laura and Heather Webber are the first two real live authors I ever saw on a Conference panel. The Missouri Writers Guild Conf. Of course, I was thinking, Are all authors this good looking?

      See, I may be one of the few writers who never even thought about writing until I was– Well older. And that was because my dear ex-nun aunt kind of challengened me.

      That challenge turned into a big challenge as the rejections came in and I was determined to prove those agents wrong.

      So soon I\’ll have the pleasure of signing my first book for some reader.

      And, Laura, I\’ve bothered you with enough questions, so I\’ll let you work on that new series and root you on.

      by Will Bereswill on June 3rd, 2008 at 12:23 am

    2. Reading this was the exact opposite of the time Theo had to read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” in college.

      Except for the part where Theo skipped over most of the middle.

      by Theo Epstein on June 3rd, 2008 at 12:23 am

    3. Loved your post, Laura! You’re right, it takes hard work and patience, and those things never seem to change, even after many books are published! I’m so excited about your new series, though I will say I loved Elise and Mitch. A lot.

      by Shelley Galloway on June 3rd, 2008 at 6:58 am

    4. What a great story, Laura. While your journey is uniquely yours, your advice is dead-on.

      And, congrats again!

      by judy larsen on June 3rd, 2008 at 8:37 am

    5. Great post, Laura…and the journey goes on.

      I’ve seen the drive you possess, and you are unstoppable.

      by JDRhoades on June 3rd, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    6. Just what I needed to read today, to break through my major case of ‘ennui’.

      Thank you, (((Laura))).

      by Texas Lynn on June 3rd, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    7. I loved read about your journey to publication, Laura. Brown polar bears–great idea for a children’s story!

      by Sara on June 3rd, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    8. I seem to remember a children\’s book you wrote when I first met you… Maybe it\’s not completely out of your system.

      by Heather on June 3rd, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    9. Will, it was Midwest Mysteryfest, actually. Though I’ll assume your lapse in memory doesn’t extend to the next sentence. :D

      Shelley, every once in a while, I still have an itch to write another story for them. But I just don’t think this is the time. Though knowing you enjoyed them so much means a lot.

      Thanks, Judy!

      by Laura on June 3rd, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    10. Dusty, thanks. From your mouth to… Funny thing is, writing this post lit a fire under my backside that I needed at the moment. Kinda reminded me of where I came from/where I want to go.

      Texas Lynn, I hope this helped! It was my intention in sharing. Just to give a little air to some tired wings.

      Sara, I think they were brown because I didn’t stop to think. But it makes me smile now.

      Heather, I forgot about that one! It got rejected but it earned a handwritten “would love to see more of your work” at the bottom. How I would have LOVED to have seen that at the bottom of one of my mystery submissions at that point.

      by Laura on June 3rd, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    11. I was so mesmerized by the authors, I forgot the conference. That’s so much better than admitting I had a moment in my sleep deprived state.

      by Will Bereswill on June 3rd, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    12. […] I was digging today and found this.  Good advise.  Much the same as Kendra’s, actually. […]

      by In order to write, one must write. « Prolifically Barren on June 7th, 2008 at 9:57 am

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