I knew I’d be a writer after Mom made a huge fuss about a short story I wrote when I was ten. By 13, classmates wrote in my junior high yearbook: “U will B a grate riter.” I’d penned stories, poems, a novel and won a couple of writing contests by 16.
At 19, I quit.
Someone whose judgment I trusted read a couple of my stories and sent a letter containing this sentence: “You’ll never, ever become a writer.”
Those words crushed me. The intention, I’m sure, was to save me inevitable heartbreak later.
The reality? Those words built a dam between me and writing for years.
But because I have a writer’s soul, words popped through chinks in the dam. Then whole sections caved and words poured out in the form of greeting cards, stories and essays. I was published in national magazines, including Family Circle, Fitness and Highlights for Children.
I tried my hand at writing a novel for children.
Each novel was rejected by agents and editors.
Discouraged, sure my original naysayer was right, I quit writing. Again.
And interviewed for a job as a children’s librarian. I’d get a regular paycheck, be surrounded by books and receive no rejections.
Except I didn’t get the job.
I used the opportunity to write a book about a klutzy, spelling bee whiz who wanted to have her mother home to play Scrabble, while staying out of the spotlight, but that proved impossible since her mother, Florida’s governor, was running for president.
After I researched, wrote and revised for a year, my agent sold As If Being 12 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President! in three weeks to Delacorte Press/Random House.
Since that time, my publisher has flown me to ALA, where I watched the Newbery Award winners announced, I’ve spoken at a conference about not quitting and I’ve spoken to children at schools, done book signings and appeared in the newspaper and on TV.
But the best thing? E-mails. Dozens of them, like this one from Samantha:
“I love “As if Being 12 and 3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running For President”. Being a kid, you might expect me to finish a 222-page book in say, a week? I finished in few hours. I refused to put it down! Are you going to write any more books?
Your #1 Fan
Yes, Samantha, I’m definitely going to write more books.
Donna Gephart’s novel, As If Being 12 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!, is available in bookstores and on-line. Her next novel comes out Spring 2010 from Delacorte Press/Random Hosue. She’s written an article for the 2009 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market titled: “Six Reasons You Should Quit Writing and One Very Important Reason You Shouldn’t.” To learn more, visit Donna on the web at http://www.donnagephart.com.