confessions / memories / rejection / writing

Finding My Place


My career has felt like a long series of searches, and nothing is ever illuminated until I am practically standing right on top of it. Trying to get published, to get an agent, in the beginning, was crushing. I slipped back in my archives to see if I should share a post, found something painful, read a few lines, and closed it. You get the picture.

I remember when I found YA—that was a wonderful moment, and it took a long time to get there. I remember when I found an agent, that dream I’d been longing for and it had come true after dozens and dozens of rejections over the years with previous manuscripts. I remember when I discovered that being published wasn’t all balloons and inflatable palm trees on swimming pools, and I felt crushed by that somehow, but I also felt as if I’d known it was coming all along, because I somehow didn’t fully believe I was allowed to be there at all. I remember when I found a new publisher, a smaller publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, and actively chose to make a leap and not be with the “Big Six.” (Haha—it was six big publishers then… now it’s five.) That was right for me. And now, as I work on my new novel, I realize it’s become a solid home for me, and I want to pinch myself.

Earlier this month, I found a new place.

My first teaching residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts went so very well, even I swear while I was living in that tiny dorm room! There was a point when I called E one night and I was trying to explain how I felt about being there and I said that, before this, whenever I was teaching somewhere or doing an author thing I’d be trying to adapt myself into what I thought people wanted me to be. I’d be faking it till I made it, you know? I’d work to fit myself in and I’d try very hard and often I’d succeed and no one knew how hard it was, but then I’d be exhausted. Flattened. Drained. But there at VCFA, I told E, I felt like I was being myself. I was teaching as I would teach. I was talking as I would talk. I was genuinely interested and inspired and fired-up and excited by everything going on around me—and none of it was forced, none of it was me trying to fit in. I’ve never had a job like that where I felt like I could be entirely myself and that was the right person to be. The community welcomed me in, and it was all of them—the faculty, the staff, the students, all the wonderful and talented and dedicated and engaged students—that helped make it such a perfect fit.

(And yes, I will fully admit the residency was exhausting, but in a different manner… I slept, happily, for a few days after I got home, but my mind was buzzing.)

I’m back in New York now and about to embark on all the work that’s coming to me this semester—I have five students I’ll be advising over the course of the semester, and in February their first packets to me are due. So we’ll see how I feel after I make it through this very, very busy winter and spring. (Speaking of busy: I’m also teaching not one but two Djerassi workshops and going to the AWP conference in the middle of this, so wish me luck.)

But right now? I feel like I’ve found yet another new home.

Between Algonquin and VCFA, between the books I’m writing and the students I get to work with, I’m in a strange, bubbly, inflatable-palm-tree-on-a-pool kind of place.

Does this mean I’m happy?

How wild.

I was much better at blogging (and had more readers!) when I was angsty and unpublished and wanting to drown a box of rejection letters in the sea. But this is where I am right now…

Next up in life: Making a new home with E.

But, hey, I’ll stress about that later.

7 thoughts on “Finding My Place

  1. O_O I so relate to what you said about having more readers when you sounded angsty. I hadn’t even made the connection until a few months ago when I started letting my angsty self show more and I started getting more readers. It makes sense, but still.😛

    Anyway, I’m so happy for you! I’m so glad you’ve found a place where you feel you really fit!😀

    (Also, I just figured you should know that Imaginary Girls is one of my top favorite books of ever. *nods*)

  2. I’m so happy you’re at VCFA! My first semester there I felt like I had finally arrived home. The feeling hasn’t vanished. I still felt the same going for residency number three. I too want to pinch myself at times, and constantly tell my husband that I never want it to end. It is a magical place. I wish you all the best in your semester. Hopefully we’ll get to work together the next one!

  3. I hope it means you are deliriously and delightfully happy. VCFA does that for me too. It is like you’ve finally found your people and you Stay Up Late and you Play Hard and you Think Big and you Aspire. We are lucky to have you to aspire with.

  4. Being in a welcoming community where you feel like you belong makes such a huge difference. It sounds like you have a wonderful 2016 ahead of you!

  5. Thanks for sharing. I feel inspired when I read about other writers who’ve had successes. It reminds me it’s not a crazy fantasy – getting published and having a life in literature happens to real people!

  6. Nice thoughts. We’ve all been there, and it is always nice to know someone else has been through the ups and downs…even if we know this in a practical sense, believing it emotionally is hard when you feel isolated in those down moments. So glad to hear things are on the up side of things…hope they stay there for a long time.🙂

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