First Book Contract: Part One

It was a bittersweet moment, but one I’ve been zeroing in on for quite some time: my last duties at Interlochen for the summer also meant the official end of three years on the road. On Friday afternoon I left the cafeteria and walked home to pack, shower, and put my feet up for a few minutes before meeting my memoir students for a final dinner that evening. But first, I sat down the check my email…
One new message immediately caught my attention and as I read its contents, my heart thrummed: the university press that has had my manuscript Flashes of War for almost a year (and held it in the final round of consideration for the past 7 months) finally responded. I’ve envisioned this moment so many times over the past several years, that actually receiving a book contract and offer for publication felt ironically anti-climactic. I read the message. Read my next new message. Then went back and re-read the book contract. Then finally called my parents, texted my closest friends, and announced the news on Facebook. Still–I didn’t leap up from the chair, I didn’t run around the house, I didn’t shout with joy or cry.
Fall 2010 I thought my book was done – little did I know! It’s been revised and submitted and rejected and revised many times since then. It just goes to show you: never give up, never fail to make improvements; eventually something will give.
When you want something for so long and it finally happens, it’s easy to forget why you wanted it so badly in the first place. Like every professional writer, of course I want that first book. But I also happen to be a professional writer trying to earn my living by staying largely self-employed. I don’t want to be a full time professor. I don’t want to teach for sections of Freshman Composition and grade eighty papers a week. I know plenty of writers who do that, do it well, and get published. But that’s not me. What I’ve been aiming for all along is simple: I want to live in a quiet, isolated, beautiful, backcountry place and still be able to earn my living as a writer. Unfortunately, one of the things that makes most such places so quiet and beautiful is the fact that nothing else is around…including job and career opportunities.
That paradox has been difficult to live with and when I hit the road almost three years ago it was with the express goal of a) getting a book published, b) securing a post-graduate fellowship, or c) both, so that I could eventually return home or move to an even more beautiful place (i.e. Alaska). Making a name for myself outside of North Carolina was also crucial, and travel was necessarily a part of that. And getting a first book published is absolutely required in order for me to apply to teach at low-residency MFA programs–my ultimate goal. (With low-res programs I’d only have to be on-site twice a year…a great chance to travel and stay connected and benefit from teaching, without having to live in a city or give up the beautiful landscapes that I love to live in.) Of course, readers of The Writing Life Blog know the other truth–that three years on the road was only supposed to be two, but I “failed” and had to re-evaluate what failure means, what success means, the reality of my goals, and the bigger plan the universe apparently had in store for me.
In the next few posts I’ll go into more detail about the process of finding the publisher, the convincing it took to let someone else help me get the job done, and how I’m feeling now at the conclusion of the three-year tour with home just a few hundred miles down the road…Stay tuned for reflections, “best of” photos from the entire 3 years, and hopefully the public announcement of the name of the publisher once all the paperwork has been signed, sealed, and delivered!
  • dragon

    Congratulations Katie! WOO HOO!
    You've worked so hard for this.
    Big Hugs,

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