Beyond The VolcanoWhen I was in the sixth grade I loved science. It was my favorite subject. Back then I had big plans of becoming a scientist or a doctor when I grew up. When the 6th grade science fair was announced I got excited. I had recently discovered a fun project done with mothballs in a solution. It was called bouncing mothballs because the mothballs moved up and down in the solution. If I put the solution in a big jar, I could display my bouncing mothballs for all to see.
A few days before the science fair, my best friend came to school with a volcano his older brother had helped him build. The teacher was so impressed she had him demonstrate it to the class. It was awesome, spitting smoke and lava. Pretty soon word got around school about Roger’s volcano. The more buzz built around Roger, the more I lost faith in my own project. After the volcano, my project seemed silly and juvenile. I withdrew from the science fair that year. Roger won.
I was so mad at him. I felt if I had an older brother who was into science I could have had a project just as cool. Fortunately I did not allow the science fair to affect our relationship. We remained best friends until he moved away.
My desire to quit, however, has stayed with me a long time. As I grew older I realized I didn’t have to win the science fair to participate. Of course it’s always nice to win… but you can’t win if you don’t play. That’s kind of been my motto for most of my life. Good thing, too, because there have been many instances where I felt I was less than. One of the secrets to success is failure. Once I realized this it made failing a lot easier. I realized the road to success was lined with failure.
When I started sending out short stories and novel pages for publication, without fail they all came back. I got in the habit of sending out a few pieces a month. For three years the stories and pages were all rejected. Unlike in the sixth grade, however, I never thought of giving up.
Earlier this year my second young adult novel, Boyfriend From Hell was published by independent publisher, White Whisker Books. My first novel, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie (Tor/Teen) was a mild hit, selling 40,000 copies. But after a month on the market, Boyfriend had amassed only about 100 sales. I was very disappointed. I knew I had a good book. Over a dozen 5 star reviews attested to it, but sales were flat. Instead of crying in my milk, I went to work. I stepped up my marketing. I talked my publisher into a cover redesign for the entire series (I foot the bill for the redesign). I created a hot new trailer. In November my sales started picking up. So far this month I have sold five times as many books as in November, and the month isn’t over yet.
I am writing this not to brag about my success, because the book isn’t a success—yet. I am writing because as artists we are quite sensitive, and can allow a little rejection to throw us off course. Had I not had the volcano experience I might have quietly sulked about my poor sales. No one likes rejection, but rejection is part of success. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, did not make his high school basketball team. He used that rejection to become, well… Michael Jordan. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a painter, paint. There will always be naysayers. I tell would be writers the naysayers are there to weed out the weak. I say “It’s hard getting started. But imagine how hard it would be if we didn’t have naysayers thinning the herd.”
If you’re a would-be writer reading this, put this aside now and go back to work. If you’ve given up on your dream, put this aside, pull out that dream and dust it off. And as you’re toiling away, please remember to look beyond the volcano.
My novel Boyfriend From Hell is now on sale for ninety-nine cents for the Nook and Kindle. Its sequel, Earth Angel, came out on December 5th. Both books have been blessed with excellent reviews.
You can learn more about me and check out all my books by visiting my website.
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