Friday, September 22, 2006

Missed my day ... again!

But I did it on purpose this time, as opposed to my sieve-like brain just letting it slip through.  I decided since no one had been assigned the 22nd, I'd post my contribution to the blog today.  Why?  Because it's my birthday!  What birthday you ask?  Let's just say I'm older than Jennifer Aniston, but younger than Susan Sarandon (not real close to either, BTW).  I was born the same year as Disneyland and McDonalds ... does that make me the same age as Cinderella??  An interesting thought.
Anyway, I'm posting today because I want to tell everyone out there that it's never too late to chase your dreams.  I started my first career as a dental hygienist ... at the same age as most folks do when they graduate college.  I didn't begin writing until I was 36.  And to be perfectly honest, I didn't have much of a clue what I was doing.  They beauty of that was, I was blessedly ignorant of that fact.  Hey, I'd been an avid reader for my entire life; how much more did I need to know?
As it turned out the answer to that question was quite a lot.  But, as I had no computer and no contact with other writers, I plodded along in my blissful state, writing happily while my children were at school.  At that time, I actually thought the most difficult task ahead of me was actually finishing a manuscript.  Little did I know....
Then came the time when that manuscript was finished and began my search for a publisher.  Now here's the kicker.  You see, I've always been a high-achiever, the girl who made the As, the one at the top of the class (well, at least in the top ten), the one who succeeded in everything she went after.  And then came the rejection letters. <dramatic music here>  OUCH!
But, ever the perseverant, I marched forward, buying books on the craft of the novel, trying in vain to find a writing group near me who was interested in more than sitting down and doing free writings about stars and grass and other things that really didn't contribute to my novel writing knowledge (I'm not saying these exercises aren't helpful to some, just not to me.  You see, I'm all about not wasting my words.  If I put them together, I want them to work for me.)  And I began to look at the books I was reading differently, study them, how did the writer suck me into her story.  And then I did the thing that opened all kinds of doors for me, I wrote a letter to Diana Gabladon.  I mean, wow, after reading OUTLANDER, who wouldn't aspire to peek into her mind?
And then, (see my great storytelling skills here?) a miracle happened.  She called me.  She was kind and witty and so generous.  It was Diana who put me on the track of the two sources that finally, finally made this writing stuff all begin to gel -- RWA (Romance Writers of America) and the Compuserve Writers Forum.  Oh my gosh, there were so many people out there doing what I was doing.  And, even more surprising, were generous with their suggestions and mentoring.  Man did my learning curve improve!
Unlike Cinderella, Diana wasn't the fairy godmother who delivered my prince that very day.  It still took several years and lots of hard work.  But it did happen.  I sold my first book in 2001 (to Warner).  I was 46.  So, in effect, I began my second career at that "advanced" age.  I'm working harder now that I ever have in my life, and I love it.
I always worried that I started too late.  By my friend Jenny Crusie assured me that most romance writers are published in the fortyish arena.  Maybe she's just telling me that to make me feel better.  I do feel like I have to make every day count, to produce quality material and not mess around.  But, by golly, I'm so glad to be doing it.
So, everyone out there who thinks your ship has sailed and you're still standing on the dock, go ahead, jump in the water and swim after it!  You never know where it'll take you.


Diana Holquist said...

Wow, Susan. Happy B'day! How exciting!

I love your story. So inspirational, even for folks like me who are barely twenty...okay, thirty...okay...well, let's just stop it there, shall we?

It's so true though, about it never being too late. In fact, I think that us older, um...more mature writers have more to bring to the table in terms of experience and life lessons.

It's a lovely message for the first day of fall! Every ending is a new beginning...


Kathleen said...

Happy Birthday Susan!!!

Thanks for sharing your story!

ChristyJan said...

Happy Birthday Susan!

Thanks for the wonderful words of wisdom and inspiration.

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Suuuusssan! Happy birthday to you!

Good thing you can't hear me singing. I started writing at the ripe old age of 35 and sold my first book about a week after my 40th birthday, so I'd say Jenny Crusie is right on the money.

Hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Paula Quinn said...

I loved reading this, Susan. I was 42 when I sold my first book to Warner. I'm kind of glad because I'm more experienced. I wrote back then too, but I think I write better stories now.
Happy birthday :)

Susan Crandall said...

You're so right Paula. I do think all things come in their appropriate time. If I'd been published earlier, I certainly wouldn't be the writer I am now. It forced me to stretch, to learn. Also, I think if I'd been doing this when my kids were young, I'd have gone crazy!

Diane Perkins said...

Acckkk! Happy BELATED Birthday, Susan!
And I wholeheartedly agree. It is never too late to chase your dream...

Shari Anton said...

Happy Birthday, Susan! Now I know why we get on so well. My birthday is the day after yours!