Monday, January 15, 2018

Shadows on the Wall

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

--Maya Angelou (1993)

“Fear is the enemy of creativity, the hotbed of mediocrity, a critical obstacle to mastering life,” states Maria Popva of Brain Pickings. This round, Teaching Authors is considering,  “How do we want to challenge ourselves or our students in the new year?”

Carmela begins with a lesson learned from her new book that will help in a revision of her next (her post includes our book giveaway of CWIM 2018); Esther talks about Next Steps in a writer's journey.

April’s challenge is to LET GO. SIMPLIFY (and a book giveaway!).

It’s a natural human thing to feel, fear. It was vital to the survival of our prehistoric ancestors facing life and death situations, inducing fight or flight responses. It’s the emotional response to troubling news, calamitous events and tragic experiences. It makes us hide, or run away, or play dead. It can be irrational, almost always is complex, as a tsunami washes panic and doubt over us, reaping havoc on our creativity.

This year has been fraught with many abrupt life changes. This includes the separation from my dear agent. I searched for years for the right agent, firing two agents along the way because they were not serving my best interest. Finally, finally I found the ONE. After five years, and the sale of my two historical fiction middle grade books, my agent decided to focus on picturebooks and so ended our relationship. For a year now, I’ve been in search of a new agent. I write historical fiction, focusing on forgotten characters (usually girls, who are not represented enough) and events (because I think as a nation, we are historically illiterate and have forgotten our own story) that helped build the American landscape. I write historical American fantasy, a unique blending of the tall tale tradition and character that captures so much of the American identity with the historical American landscape.

It has not been easy.

Careful to do my research, and asking for recommendations, I’ve sent out two to three queries a week. Giving time for responses, I’ve sent out close to thirty queries. Most have given me the silent rejection and not responded. A few responses liked the story but rejected the manuscript because historical fiction is a hard sell. A few others offered that it was a bad fit, offering vague, even contradictory reasons. One asked for a revision, and then ultimately passed. Another asked for another revision, offering detailed observations. But now, I struggle with the writing.

I don’t think I have it in me for another rejection.
First there was grief over the end of a relationship that I valued. But as I understood and accepted the rational of the decision, I began to panic as I received one than another then another then another rejection.. Yes, I could submit to publishers without rep, but most require the vetting of an agent. I soon doubted my place in the writing field. I began to grieve – what I thought – the end of my career just as it finally seemed to come together.

Everywhere, there are shadows on the wall and noises down the hall.
But my friends Cynthia, Bonny and Vera, and my fellow Teacher Authors, they tell me: Don’t Give Up. It's a new year, a new day.

And Monica tells me, Just Keep Swimming.

Okay. I will if you will.

So this is my challenge to you: don't give up.

Don’t Quit

--Edgar Guest (March 1921)

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
when the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
when the funds are low and the debts are high,
and you want to smile but you have to sigh,
when care is pressing you down a bit - rest if you must, but don't you quit.

See the full Edgar Guest poem here .

Photo is from Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, conceived and edited by Sara Jane Boyers, pairing Maya Angelou’s simple, strong narrative with drawings by legendary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. For more on the lovely book, including a discussion on the art, where to buy it and listening to a reading by Angelou, see Brain Pickings here.

Bobbi Miller


Joanna said...

Oh, man, this writer's life is so not for the faint of heart, right, Bobbi? I stopped sending out my first YA after 30 submissions too. And I am at 10 on the second! I take you up on your challenge, I won't quit if you don't. I love your stories and have them in my school library. I have to trust that right-fit agent is out there for both of us. I believe in you as an author and know the world, especially the USA, needs more of your stories.

Bobbi Miller said...

It's a deal, dear Joanna! Having a friend like you on this journey makes all the difference in the world! ❤❤❤

Cynthia Cotten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia Cotten said...

We're in this together, kid--for better or worse. :)

Bobbi Miller said...


Esther Hershenhorn said...

We've got each other's backs, Bobbi, to make sure we remain upright!

We should all take heart from the 25th Anniversary edition of Sara Jane Boyer's gorgeous book first published in 1993 - LIFE DOESN'T FRIGHTEN ME - a pairing of Maya Angelou's words with Jean-Michel Basquiat's paintings.
Sara has NEVER QUIT in believing this book should be re-released and that the world should know HER stories.

Here's the link to her blog post talking about the book:

I've now copied Edgar Guest's poem to make it available to my writers and students and ME on a daily basis!
Thank you for that - and - your honesty.

Carmela Martino said...

Oh, Bobbi, I can SO relate to this. As you know, I eventually put my historical novel in a drawer, but I managed to sell it to a small press without an agent. I hope you find the perfect-match agent for yours. Keep at it!

Yvonne Ventresca said...

I'm hoping this year is productive and creative for you. Keep going!

Bobbi Miller said...

O Esther, THANK YOU for this additional information! This is wonderful! We remain upright!!!

Bobbi Miller said...

You are an inspiration. Thank you!

Bobbi Miller said...


April Halprin Wayland said...

Bobbi ~ it's honesty that powers us. It's the scariest thing in the world and ultimately, the thing which frees me.

Thank you for yours. (I spoke with a dear friend of mine today and he said that lies are never okay. There's even a way to talk with children about Santa without lying, says he.)

Kim P said...

I have read this 4 times. I shared it twice. and I am now printing it out. I have been so intimidated the last few years after finally leaving an agent and barely submitting to more that is was easier to hike over 300 miles last summer through Portugal and Spain than it was to put myself out there with more submissions. Which gave me the courage to get my butt back in the chair and polish and revise through the fall and now this ... Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for courage. Thank you for your inspiration. ... Thank YOU.

David McMullin said...

Thank you for sharing. This business in not easy, but we get through by leaning on one another. Thanks for your encouragement, and I wish you strength!

Bobbi Miller said...


Bobbi Miller said...

I absolutely agree! Thank you for your kind words!

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you for your kind words!❤

Anonymous said...

I hope 2018 is your lucky year. Everybody's right, just keep on swimming. Quitting is for sissies, right? Very unlike your strong heroines! :)

Bobbi Miller said...