Writing and finishing the novel True Mercy was a major achievement in my life. I wrote about issues that I care deeply about and I always love a thriller, a story that I cannot put down. So I decided to use this blog to write about how that journey began. Every writer has a story about their personal writing journey and all are unique in how they reached the point of writing a book.
When I was younger, I never thought I could make a living writing, so I pursued other careers. When I wrote papers for college, people remarked I was a good writer, but I never thought it would lead anywhere.
I didn’t try to actually write a book and get published until my twin sons were born. I would read them children’s picture books every day when they were still babies because educators told me this will help them develop a love of reading. We read children’s classics like Where the Wild Things Are, Berenstain Bears, and my childhood favorite, Hats for Sale. Reading to them was our special time as they would sit on my lap, stare at the pictures, and listen to my voice. What ended up happening was the more I read to them, I more convinced I became that I could write a children’s book myself.
Once I made this decision, I checked out books from the local public library on how to write children’s books and get them published. One resource I remember very well is the Writer’s Digest Children’s Book and Illustrator’s Market. I also subscribed to Writer’s Digest magazine and poured over it every month. I learned that the children’s market is very competitive, it is important to carefully read the requirements of each publisher, and I needed to become familiar with the word length for each age group.
While visiting the public library one day, I met a librarian who was a retired kindergarten teacher. She told me about her interest in writing children’s books, particularly the story she always dreamed of writing: when she was still teaching, a student once came up to her and asked, “What would you do with me if you were my mother?” So she and I began collaborating on this picture book for young children. Naturally, both of us had different ideas, but we were able to coalesce our versions together to write a story. We researched the Children’s Book and Illustrator’s Market and began sending it out.
We received many rejections.
Undeterred, we kept on writing children’s stories. We composed three stories about a character named Petey that we believed had potential.
But again, more rejections.
A few years later, although I moved to a different town, I still continued to edit and send out the Petey stories. I would inform my writing collaborator what I was doing and we remained hopeful. Unfortunately, she passed away, but I still tried to get the book published. I figured her name would appear on the cover posthumously and her four children would be paid half the profits.
It was only when I went to a Writer’s Digest Fiction Writing Conference in New York City that editors and agents informed me they didn’t see these stories getting published. And when I read them to one of my writers’ groups, they didn’t appear impressed and hearing myself read it, I knew it still needed some work.
More years went by. My twins grew up and I lost interest in writing children’s books. I even gave up trying to get published—I compared the odds of getting published to winning the lottery. But despite all the discouragement, I continued writing. My writing goals shifted; I became interested in writing an adult novel. After many fits and starts, I finally completed one. And that will be the subject for my next post of My Writing Journey. But I will end on the positive with a quote from Confucius:
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
Idelle Kursman is the author of the thriller novel True Mercy.
Notice to readers who are also writers: I would be interested in learning how you began your writing journey.