Never was this more clear than the time she accused me of plagiarism. I'd written a short story about a lonely boy trying to reconnect with his dead mother on Halloween. I was quite proud of the story, and I'd spent a lot of time writing it. Unfortunately, my teacher couldn't, or wouldn't believe someone like me had written it. She said I must have copied it from somewhere. But when I asked her where she thought I'd copied it from, she had no idea, only that there was no way I could have written it. She didn't believe a jock on the varsity football and wrestling teams could do something like that. Perhaps she didn't understand that sports was just something I did. It wasn't who I was. Writing, on the other hand. Now, that was my passion.
And she did a funny thing in telling me my writing was too good for someone like me. She planted a seed of confidence. If she thought it was too good for a high schooler, then maybe it was something I should hold on to...nurture so it could grow into something more.
In short, my teacher's doubt only strengthened my resolve.
This more than anything explains why I decided to pursue a degree in literature and become an English teacher myself. I wanted to learn--to really acquire--the skills necessary to become a writer.
Fast forward a decade and I was close to getting my first book published. My agent at the time was very encouraging. He showed my book off to lots of different editors at big publishing houses...and to our surprise, one of them offered a book contract. But there was a catch. They liked my story, but they didn't think it was quite right for their market. So, instead, they wanted me to write a new book based on a vague idea they'd been tossing around.
In response, I created three different approaches. To which, the editor picked my least favorite idea. In hindsight, I realize this should have been a red flag, but I was too committed (and desperate) to get the fabled book deal. The advance alone meant that I wouldn't have to spend the summer working in a poorly ventilated machine shop. And with the promise that my original book would be published after I wrote one for them, I couldn't say no.
And that's why I spent the next year working on a novel I didn't feel particularly passionate about. I kept getting positive feedback and encouragement from the editor. And by the end of the year, I'd written 300 pages for them...but then...nothing. Something changed and the editor seemed to have lost interest. They ghosted me, and they let me know through my agent that they were "going in a different direction."
I don't blame them for what happened. On the contrary, this rejection freed me to pursue the more passionate route. Her Gilded Voice was borne from their rejection. I vowed to write the approach I was most excited about--not what somebody else wanted, but what I wanted. And I couldn't be happier with what I was able to create because of this.
And now, Her Gilded Voice will be published by Elsewhen Press.
It will be my story, the way I want it to be told. And if not for doubt of my high school teacher, or the rejection of my editor, it might not have been possible. All of this is to say that roadblocks can send you on some of the most amazing detours.
Thanks for reading,