by Kimberly MacCarron
I’m kicking off a special guest blog for the next seven Tuesdays. It’s to honor the 2013Golden Heart® finalists in YA, but somehow I got stuck with the first week. We’re supposed to talk about our book or the exciting call announcing us as finalists. I’m talking about not being afraid to take chances.
In 2010 I was a Golden Heart® finalist, and I assumed the red carpet would unfurl and agents and editors from every big publishing house would be lined up, throwing rose petals and their business cards over the velvet rope and shouting, “Call me!”
Brace yourselves. That didn’t happen.
I didn’t realize that the finalists were on a loop and supporting each other and becoming fast friends. By the time I finally contacted Vanessa Barneveld, who was another YA finalist and had a website, the Golden Heart® train had left the station. I panicked when I saw everyone’s good news. People were signing with agents and getting book contracts. I thought all the best stops had already happened. I missed my chances. I missed my stop!
But that’s not true. You only miss your stop if you don’t jump and take a chance. For two solid years after that I didn’t query agents. I didn’t submit to agents and editors—even when it was a request. Why? Because it’s easier to tell yourself that you’re not getting rejections because you aren’t submitting and not because they might not like your voice or story or characters.
It’s much easier, yes. But it’s certainly hard to get your work into the right hands if you aren’t willing to jump, to take the chance.
I finally jumped. And guess what? Not only did I final in the 2013 Golden Heart® and became one of the Lucky 13s, but I also signed with the very best agent for me. She believes in me, and that makes all the difference!
This post was supposed to be about my Golden Heart® entry—STICKS AND STONES. But, that’s not my story. That’s Brynn’s. And someday I hope she’s able to tell it. My story is about taking chances. About putting yourself out there even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard.
Although I cried when I didn’t final for those two years in between, and even though it hurt not to believe in myself, I couldn’t stop writing. Oh, I threatened it all the time. This is it! I’m done! I can’t do this anymore! Then an idea would pop into my head and wouldn’t rest until I told the story.
For instance, here’s the boring way I came up with STICKS AND STONES. I was folding laundry and watching a talk show when I heard about a condition where the person is unable to feel pain. At first I ignorantly thought, “How cool!” But then I heard the individual stories. The accidents. The illnesses. The life-threatening fevers.
My OCD behavior kicked in, and I researched CIPA—Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis. Then I imagined a teenage girl with this condition. How would she feel? What would her life be like? What would it be like for her to fall in love for the first time? To take the riskiest chance of all? And the idea for STICKS AND STONES was born.
I obsessed about this condition. I obsessed about this imaginary life I created for an imaginary character. When NaNo started in November, the words poured out, and I wrote the book in twenty-seven days. Thanks in part to Pintip, who bugged me every single day to sprint with her. J
The best thing about being a finalist with this particular book is that I adore my characters. I do! And that’s the hardest part about having it out there—letting my characters be evaluated and judged for their worth. In the end, no matter what the outcome for Brynn, her story has been told. She took some risks and jumped.
How could I not do the same?
I’ll end with my favorite Taylor Swift quote: “Being fearless isn’t being 100% not fearful; it’s being terrified but you jump anyway…”
By Kimberly MacCarron
(who is now represented by the uber-fabulous Michelle Grajkowski at 3 Seas Literary)
Next week our guest blogger and two-time Golden Heart® finalist is Sheri Adkins!