Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So much gratitude

*warning, this post is long, but hopefully worth reading

Wow. Just, wow. The response over the last few days since my book deal for DEFY got announced have been absolutely amazing. So many messages, emails, comments, tweets, and more--some of which even made me cry! An amazing book blogger that I admire and have followed for years already added DEFY to Goodreads and it just made it that much more real: my book is going to be a REAL BOOK. People want to read it! People are excited about it! I can't even begin to express my gratitude to all of you for making this such a wonderful moment in my life--and for being excited about DEFY!

Guys, most of you know what a looooong road this has been for me. And I linked to a bunch of posts about that in my last post, so I won't repeat it again. Instead, I'm going to talk a little bit more about this particular book, and how it came to be.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Josh's death. My sweet cousin Megan's birthday is today. I can't believe a year has passed since we lost him. After his death, I couldn't write. I'd sit down at my computer and nothing would come out and the reality of Josh's death would hit me over and over again, and I'd just sit there and cry. This is the post I wrote after we lost Josh: sometimes the answer is no

It was a very difficult time in many lives.

One thing I didn't talk about on my blog, was that three weeks before he died, I'd made the gut-wrenching decision to leave my first agent after two years of working together. Within a couple of days after his funeral, my month of waiting was up and I began querying again. I was terrified. And broken in so many ways. Everyday that I sat down to write (because as I've said before, the best advice anyone gave me was to always WRITE ANOTHER BOOK), no words would come. 

Then one of my friends told me to just let whatever I was feeling come out. To not worry about a story or a plot, just write what was in my heart. 

So I did. It was a dark scene, in a jungle. Someone had just died. I poured all of my emotions into those words.

And that scene became the first words I wrote of DEFY. I had no idea what it would turn into. I had no idea who these characters were--yet. All of my pain, the stark reality of death I had just experienced, and my wish for eventual happiness in the face of death became a story that is full of hardship and loss, but also a story of courage and life. A story of magic and love and sword-fighting and defiance and characters who surprised me and took me places I didn't know we were going, and who I love so intensely, I can't wait to share them with all of you. But it was a difficult story to figure out. I wrote the first 10k quickly, within a few days. And then I hit a wall. I had a different idea that I decided to pursue instead. I figured DEFY (which was called Daughter of War at the time) would be nothing more than an exercise to help me sort through some of my emotions after Josh's death. 

But it wouldn't leave me alone. And when July came and I still hadn't received another offer yet, I decided I needed to come back to this book. To figure out what the heck was going on with it. 

For weeks, I tried to figure out where the plot was going, what needed to happen. I barely got any words written. It was unusual and so frustrating for me. I barely managed to eek out another 5-10k words. By early August I had almost come to hate this book. It just wouldn't speak to me. And the book I was querying, while it garnered some very serious interest, a near-offer, and a request for a revision, ultimately didn't seem as though it was going to get me another agent.

It was the closest I'd ever come to quitting. I knew I couldn't quit--I knew I wouldn't quit--but after six and a half years of rejection and trial after trial after crazy trial, and now seemingly unable to write a new book, I didn't know what to do. 

Did I truly want this dream or not? Was I willing to give up now after everything I had been through, suffered, pressed on and endured? 

Yes, I wanted it. And I was NOT going to quit. So I sat down, and just made myself write. It didn't happen that day, or the next, but about a week later, suddenly, it clicked. The plot FINALLY fell into place. The characters finally told me their secrets. And I wrote the last 60k in about five days, including one marathon session on a Saturday from eleven in the morning until eight at night. (I had to hire a babysitter because my husband worked.) When I finished DEFY, I was crying. I was drained. But I'd never felt more proud of a book in my life. I knew there was something special about this one. I love all of my books, but I truly felt like this was the best work I'd ever done. 

I revised it for a couple of weeks and sent it to some readers. Two had read for me before and one hadn't. The one who hadn't loved this book so much, it blew me away. I waited for the feedback from all three, and then spent another month revising it, and then decided to bite the bullet and query it. 

Well, you know what happened next. 

And now, here we are. DEFY is going to be published in about a year. 

Life is so interesting. One year ago, I was the one in the hospital wondering why the whole world hadn't stopped spinning, why so many people were living their lives, blissfully unaware of the heart-shattering loss we were enduring. 

Today, one year later, my sister is in the hospital, but not because of death. Instead, she is there to deliver life--to welcome her first child, her newborn son, into the world.

And today, one year later, the book that grew out of grief and loss, and turned into so much more, has been announced to the world. 

All around us are triumphs and failure. There is joy and devastation. As I sit here, trying to figure out how to put my gratitude and excitement into words, I can't stop thinking about my cousin who is celebrating her birthday for the first time without her sweet husband. I can't stop thinking about my sister, about to usher new life into the world. I can't stop thinking about everything that has brought me to this moment. Death. Life. Joy. Sorrow. Life is made of all of these and more. 

DEFY is a story that grew from a broken heart and a desperate hope, and became something that I am truly proud of and excited to share with all of you. I hope that when you get the chance to read it you will love it as much as I do. 

And I hope that no matter what your dream is, no matter what heartaches you may be enduring--or that may come someday--that you will never give up. That you will keep fighting for your dreams, for happiness, for the joy that will always come, if we just believe long enough


And I hope that when that day of triumph comes, that you will have as many wonderful people to celebrate with you as I have been blessed to have in my life! I have been so fortunate to have very supportive family and friends to celebrate with me and here is some picture proof:

 Going to The OG with my family to celebrate! (This is the sister that is having her baby boy right now!)
 Another one of my beautiful sisters (and my darling niece)!
 Most of the family (a few had to leave early). This was such a memorable night! The server at the table next to us shouted out to the whole restaurant that someone had a birthday, so then my dad stood up and shouted to the whole restaurant that I had sold my book and was getting published! Everyone cheered, and the women at the birthday table were very excited to ask me about it. The most ironic part is that a couple of weeks ago, we all went to Chili's and the same family was there and she remembered my dad and came up and asked me if we were the ones from the OG who he'd yelled about getting published! A memory I'll never forget, for sure.


 My husband's parents, a couple of his cousins, and his aunt and uncle also wanted to celebrate with me! We went to dinner, where his aunt brought me flowers, his mom bought dinner, and SHH had the sweetest surprise for me!
 A personalized pen!

 This is the box the pen came in (as I said, the book was originally called Daughter of War).
 The pen inside has my name on it and a bunch of inspirational words/phrases. It was the most thoughtful, wonderful gift. I saved that pen so that the first time I used it was to sign my contract a week ago!
 And then my parents surprised me on Christmas Eve by giving me a Christmas/Congratulations present: my very own Le Creuset!! (Any of you chefs out there know how amazing this gift is.) That is the face of super excitement and shock!

And I also had some wonderful friends take me to dinner: Natalie Whipple and Michelle Argyle made me feel so special! Thank you girls!

I also celebrated with many other wonderful people in many ways. But this post is already SO long, I better stop. I just want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

And don't ever, ever give up. No matter what. 

10 comments:

Kathryn Purdie said...

Hooray for the one reader who loved your book so much, it blew you away! *coughs* ;-) In all seriousness, I loved this post so much. I'm glad you dug deep and wrote such an amazing book. Your cousin would be proud of you. I can't wait for all the world to go topsy-turvy in love with DEFY like I am.

Lisa Schroeder said...

What a beautiful post.

Congratulations and enjoy every step of the next stage of your journey!!

ilima said...

I love this story, Sara. So happy and inspiring and it makes me giddy for your book to be published. Huge congrats!

Unknown said...
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SHH :) said...

Wow, wow, wow!!! Thank you SO much for inspiring me! You are amazing!

Kristin Rae said...

What a journey, Sara. I am so glad you have so much to celebrate this new year! :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Such a beautiful post! I'm so excited for you and happy me and Natalie got to celebrate with you too!

Suzie F. said...

You certainly are an inspiration, Sara. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I loved your celebration pics!

L.T. Elliot said...

I think the most raw emotion is always the one that's the most powerful in written word. I'm glad to see so much joy come for you out of such dark places. Congratulations!

Brenna said...

This is an incredible post, Sara. Thank you for taking the time to share so much of yourself, in writing a book and sharing your thoughts and feelings here. :)

It was so refreshing to read, and I'm so pleased to hear about DEFY.

So grateful that you have the strength and are brave enough to share what you write!

Brenna from Esther's Ever After