On the Writing Path

,And so the game changes.

It’s been a fast moving beginning to 2017, but I’ll digress to say that 2016 ended with a cliff hanger, which meant while most people were reveling in the holidays, I waited for the new year to begin and decided I might as well work  on my fourth novel, so I wouldn’t climb the walls over the fact that my third novel was at issue! But things are on track now, and I recently signed a contract with Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency, for representation. There are irons in the fire as I write this, but far be it from me to jinx anything, so I’m going to share a bit about my literary journey over the past few years, in hope that it will lend insight and encouragement to my fellow writers.

My first attempt at writing a novel began after I moved back to Los Angeles from the west coast of Ireland. Upon reviewing the daily journals I kept there, I realized, if I could craft it well, I had a great story. So, I dove in and completed the manuscript of what eventually became “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” then queried agents interested in commercial fiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction, and everywhere else that would potentially be interested. I had a few bites, yet after a year, it occurred to me that I was an unknown, with little to recommend me as a writer. I switched focus, submitted and was published in magazines then, through what can only be called sheer chance, I caught the eye of the editor of Malibu’s local newspaper, when a white Dove landed on my kitchen patio, and I sent its photograph with a little story of the turmoil the presence of this seraphic creature created amongst our two dogs as it took up roost on the patio for eleven days. Astoundingly, I was offered my own weekly column. Writing this 1,000 word, weekly column taught me the art of brevity, and I acquired a firm grasp on the art of the flow. Yet still, no progress with my novel, so I decided to write another novel, whose premise is a personal interest of mine, and whose idea came to me when my husband and I checked into an historic hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. I’ll go on and say it here and risk scrutiny: I’m telling you, this hotel was haunted. I knew it because the fine hairs on my arms stood up as I gazed around its lobby. My imagination ran rampant. I knew in my bones that this particular hotel had its origins as a private residence, and after checking with the concierge, I learned I was right. And so I wrote a novel in two time frames about a woman who checks into an historic hotel and comes to realize she has lived before, so familiar is she with every nuance of the setting. I titled the book, “A Portal in Time,” searched high and low for agents and publishers interested in paranormal mystery, and had the good fortune of being offered a publishing contract, without the involvement of an agent. A Portal in Time turned out to be a crash course in not only the publishing business, but in the wonderful world of marketing and promotion. Next, I did what anyone would do, I submitted my first novel’s manuscript to A Portal in Time’s publisher, and Dancing to an Irish Reel came out in March of 2015.

Somewhere, in the swing of all this, I entered The San Francisco Writer’s Conferences’ writing contest, and came in as the contest’s runner up. It was a 3,000 word, non-fiction narrative set in the South, where I grew up. And so I decided I had something to build upon, turned the piece into fiction, and filled it out to 83,000 words. The manuscript is a Southern Family Saga, and in no way fits what my current publisher publishes. And so I began again. Something very promising happened with this manuscript, yet rather than going into what became a false start, I’ll simply say fate intervened and everything came to a halt. I picked myself up and  pressed on with querying agents. Enter Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency. I’ll leave you here and report there is great hope for my third book, yet I will reiterate I am not one to jinx things, and I’ve learned a little something about the folly of counting chickens!

I’m sharing “my story” to remind all writers to persevere because I’m still doing so. It’s a long and winding road ( thank you, Paul McCartney) and I’m thinking it’s also unpredictable. The important thing is that all writers recognize that it is enough to be on the road. I’m fond of saying the good news about a writing career is there is no “there” to get to; there is only the fulfilling path.

And while I’ve got you, let me leave you with something the publisher of my first two novels posted. For those of you who are Catholic Christian writers, this one’s for you, and my wish is it creates an open door to your publishing dreams:

https://getvinspired.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/well-be-accepting-pitches-at-the-catho/

Sending great blessings to you all, and, as they say in Ireland,” slainte.”

 

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17 thoughts on “On the Writing Path

  1. I’m way behind you on the writing path, Claire, but it’s very reassuring and comforting to hear from somebody who is further up the path. These pieces of information, sent from further up the path, are like gold nuggets. Congratulations on the new contract. You are an inspiration to new writers like myself. Wishing you much success.

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    1. I’m so glad to hear this, Hugh. I think what I’ll do from here on this site is talk more about what I learned in the process of all this, in case kind souls such as you may glean something. Thank you for commenting. So great to see this here!

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  2. Congratulations, Claire. I love how you describe the writer’s path; ‘there is no “there” to get to; there is only the fulfilling path.’ Some of my friends say still say to me – you’ll get there, wait and see. I’m on my ninth book and still not sure where ‘there’ is supposed to be. I thought I was ‘there’ when I finished my first one, a life-long goal, but there was so much more to discover and experience. I don’t want it to end, I want to continue enjoying that ‘fulfilling path’ you mentioned. Long my your own journey continue, Claire.

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    1. Slainte, Jean! I’ve thought a lot about this very subject, and arrived at the conclusion that what I mostly want is the writer’s life-style, as in permission to keep writing, if you will. Every so often, one has to have verification that they are doing something worthwhile, and this, to me, is really the only aim. It does seem to me that there are plateaus to reach, and when this happens, it’s nice to raise one’s own bar. But again, it comes down to the quality of life; how one spends one’s days, and beyond this, it seems to be about development. So nice to meet you on WordPress! I have a soft-spot for all things ( and people) Irish!

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    2. Isn’t this a great subject, Jean? It appears to me that right now you’re living in the middle of there! Think about it, what we want as writers is the life style, and it seems to me you’re living it. If there is indeed a there to get to, you got there a while ago! I’m so happy for you!

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      1. You are so right, Claire, I really feel that I’m living in the middle of ‘there’ at the moment. Whether or not it keeps on like this for me, I’ll always be grateful for having experienced it. Every time you write something it’s worthwhile, Claire, so I hope you keep on doing it. I’ll leave you with a good luck wish in Irish – Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!

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  3. What a pleasure to read an author’s journey written with such flair and optimism. For me, all truth is optimistic in that it pulls back the veil on ignorance and delusion. You nailed it, Claire: The journey itself is enough. How often we wish away the present for an uncertain future. To appreciate and live in the moment while aspiring to something greater is an inherent human talent we’re all capable of developing. You’ve shown us how one can do just that. Thank you… 🙂

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    1. Bless you, my new friend. I’ve been thinking so much about this subject lately. I think discussing this with you has given me fodder for a new post on just this idea! I thank you for this! And lastly, if anyone can ever come up with a better line than “all truth is optimism,” just let me know. That is absolutely soul-stirring! Well done, Tina!

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  4. Congratulations, Claire. Your success is well deserved and I’m thrilled for you. Thank you for this post about your publishing journey. It’s uplifting to read and it shows the tenacity necessary to become published. There aren’t many stories out there that provide such detail and give such hope. It’s late where I live and I’m going to bed soon with smile. Best wishes to you in all your literary pursuits.

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  5. Oh yes, Sharon, there is always great hope for us all. It’s a question of moving forward, no matter what. I was thinking just last night ( because my story is still unfolding) about three author friends I know that have become frustrated and simply quit searching for the open door they really wanted. I think this is another blog post topic, but there is wisdom in preparing for set-backs and staying flexible in one’s vision. It’s all so unpredictable, and every published author has a different story. And further, because I know a handful of authors published by the big houses, I’ve recently learned that one should never assume all that glitters is gold, which, again, is another blog post topic!

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