Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So you're an author, huh?

Dear readers, I'm excited to announce that author Kelly Simmons (Standing Still) has graciously offered to write a guest post for New Dork Times. She's also giving away one autographed copy of her book to the person whose comment makes her laugh, intrigues her, or just plain catches her eye. Please leave a comment by Feb. 16, 4:30 p.m. central to be entered into the giveaway. Read on!

So You’re An Author, huh?

“Is this your first book?”

It’s the first question everyone asks, at every book club, every cocktail party, every casual conversation I have with another mom on the soccer field or volleyball court, as soon as one of my friends tell them I’m a writer and have they read my fabulous book, Standing Still? (Thank God for my chatty outgoing friends. If they worked in Hollywood I’d have that elusive movie deal wrapped up already.)

And it’s a simple question on the face of it, and yet, not an easy question for me to answer. Because while it is my first published book, it also occupies other numbers. The 8th novel I’ve written. The 5th novel that agents have evaluated. The 4th novel that made the rounds of editors, represented by my 3rd agent. The novel that came out after more than 15 years of writing and 3 years of editing.

These numbers are fascinating to some, and absolutely soul-crushing to others, so I have to be careful how I wield them. In a classroom full of MFA candidates, or a library full of would-be memoirists, or a book club filled with “Ihaveabookinme” types, these numbers scare the crap out of people. They’re dispiriting, discouraging, and well, kinda make me look like a loser. (When you spend 15 years doing something with no success, after all, what is the freaking universe telling you?)

Every so often, there is a brave follow-up question: What made you go on, in the face of so much rejection? I suspect people expect me to claim faith in a higher power, or a driving need to feed my family (remember JK Rowling in the coffee shop and her utilities turned off?). Or perhaps, they crave a more literary motivation: I promised my mother on her deathbed that I wouldn’t stop writing. My older brother is a rocket scientist and I have to prove that I’m smart too.

But the answer is smaller, and subtler: I knew I was a good writer. And while getting rejected was a bummer, writing gave me a simple pleasure, like planting bulbs or knitting a sweater. For many years, it has been my garden. And not everyone likes everything I plant. But I get to look at it, and enjoy it, everyday.

And that’s not for nothing, y’know?

Kelly Simmons, a former journalist and advertising creative director, is the author of Standing Still, in paperback February 10, and coming soon, The Bird House. She visits as many book clubs as she can (here’s a great article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about her visiting clubs: And she’s now offering an exclusive Book Group DVD to those she can’t. For more information, see her website:, or email her at


Rachie said...

Oooooooo! Now I know what book I'm going to recommend for our next book club read!

Seriously, I get grand notions of writing a book in my head, but when I read all the work and heartache and rejection that goes with it, I kind of just think, "Eh, I'll just keep writing catchy marketing pieces for the highest bidder."

Anonymous said...

Ms. Simmons,
Thanks for the comments on writng that you posted on April's website. So nice of you to take time out to talk to all us wannabe writers, and share your experience. I especially liked the plant analogy. Writing IS a wonderful hobby, but since I started writing, the old ones are suffering. In particular my golf game!
I've put your book on my reading list and am looking forward to reading it.
Will you edit your first attempts for publication now that you have been discovered?
And no, I don't find your story discouraging. I've learned--and am still learning--that writing is a skill like anything else, even golf, and it takes a lot of effort, research, patience and practice!

Anonymous said...

So, is this your first sweater?

April said...

Edit: Anonymous sweater comment comes from Gail, per email.

atsirk said...

Can't wait to read this book (and hopefully I'll have my own autographed copy!!)!

Anonymous said...

I've heard the book is excellent, and I'll read it when I win it. :)

~Carol B.

April said...

I very much enjoy reading books by different authors. Your book, Standing Still, has been recommended highly to me by a co-worker at the local library. I'm looking forward to reading it!

April said...

Edit: The above comment wasn't from me. That was from Gail F. I forgot to log out of my account before she left her comment. :)

Anonymous said...

As book lover and mother myself this sounds like a book of interest to me. I will be looking for it at my local library. You can never read tooooo many books. Thanks for not giving up and keep on writing:) Barb

b. said...

I have a book in me. And maybe a Lifetime does one know this for sure?

MJ said...

This sounds great!

La Yen said...

I used to think I had a book in me, and then my brain was destroyed by a three-year old who only tells knock knock jokes like this:
Knock Knock
Who's There?
Chicken Who?
I no love you.

Nemesis said...

Can't wait to read your book. Anything that took 15 years of your life deserves to be read. And thank you for reminding us that (apart from the occasional hair-pulling writer's block experience)writing should make us happy.

ps. Love your glasses.