My life as a published writer began when a story was published in the Sentinel, Mt. Hebron School’s literary journal, in May, 1956. In 1964 I finished an MA in English, then taught ESL, married a writer, and was the family scribe. I wrote my first book in 1982 in a fit of pique at my first husband, who had been working on a book for 14 years without producing a first draft.
In 1982, I muttered to myself, “Even I could write a book,” and within three months, I had produced a manuscript.
A few months later, I rode home on the bus from New York with a family friend, Jan Mason. Jan had just authored a popular book, and she gave me the name of her agent, Marilyn Marlowe, of the Curtis-Brown agency. I was too naïve to know that one didn’t send fledgling writing efforts to such esteemed agents. Marilyn sent me a note saying that my manuscript was not quite there yet but, “…you write with unusual sensitivity, and I would like to see your future work.”
Bless Marilyn Marlowe. She got me started.
For a couple of decades I commuted an hour and a half each way to a full-time job in New York city and had little time to think about, write, revise, and submit my writing. So in 2003 I quit my job. That was idiocy, but life was getting short. I planned to write and submit to the literary press for one year, and if I didn’t get anything accepted, I would go back to work. While the literary press does not generally pay their authors, the competition is keen. If I could be published there, I was good enough. I had several pieces accepted.
A position as an adjunct professor teaching freshman writing at Montclair State University helped steady my finances, teaching others made me a better writer, and I connected with a world of writers. The flexible schedule left me time to work on my book. Monthly meetings with a writer’s group were invaluable. They were kind, knowledgeable, and tough critics.
Writing conferences served to convince me that traditional publishers and agents did not have a workable business plan, yet self-publishing would result in a mediocre product because I had no knowledge or skill at marketing, design, or business.
As I ramped up my efforts to get my book published, I was alarmed to find that there was another author named Ann Evans, and changed to a nom de plume, Ann Anderson Evans.
An agent, Elizabeth Trupin-Pulli, agreed to represent me, but her husband fell ill and she retired to care for him. Another agent came within a hair of accepting my book, but she was wary because “publishers aren’t accepting memoirs.”
The drumbeat of negativity was offset by people who read my work and helped me make it better, or who treated me as if I were already a writer, though I had not yet made a penny. I also gathered helpful sayings:
Murder your darlings. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
Writing is refined thinking. Stephen King (On Writing)
Easy writing makes hard reading. Ernest Hemingway
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas Edison
The negatives have floated away. The support stays with me.
Then my book was finally ready, and I found the sweet spot in publishing, SheWrites Press. They have a business plan which provides certain services for a fee, but also provides designers, editors, and business experts to guide their authors, and a sophisticated marketing arm.
DARING TO DATE AGAIN: A Memoir will be published on November 11, 2014. I’ll take you with me on the journey from here to there.