Karen Fisher is an astonishing writer. It wasn’t always that way -- at least it didn’t appear so.
Shortly after marrying, Karen quit her teaching job to write a book, a novel based on a journal one of her forebears kept while crossing the Oregon Trail. Karen wrote a first draft, a second, a third, fourth, fifth. Along the way, she and her husband had three children, settled in Puget Sound and she continued to write. Life wasn’t easy, though Karen said she loved her family and her modest one-room home, agents weren’t interested in her manuscript. Money was tight, of course, with three children and a single income. One Christmas, Karen went to the mall with her kids and saw Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” in the bookstore window, a book so much like her own, only his was published and hers not. She said she cried then.
It wasn’t long after that Karen's husband sat her down at their kitchen table and told her it might be time to give up. It was years after she’d started writing the book, and she needed to move on. Just then the phone rang. It was an agent, Kit Ward of the Christina Ward Literary Agency, wanting to represent Karen’s manuscript. Together they worked on revisions and some months later, Kit submitted Karen’s novel. Every editor turned it done, every editor but Laura Ford at Random House. More revisions and then – 10 years after its inception -- “A Sudden Country” was released in August 2005. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, glowing reviews from the New York Times, Washington Post, on all the pages a writer dreams of while laboring over each and every sentence.
It is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous books I’ve read.
Since then, Karen’s won several awards and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner 2006. Not long ago, I read on Publishers Marketplace Kit negotiated a two-book for Karen, again with Random House.
Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps because the past few weeks and months, I’ve spoken with countless authors, yes authors, who were on the brink of despair, but refused to give up on the stories they loved. Now their books are recently published, days away, or they've just sold their manuscripts.
So if you’re laboring over your sentences, somedays wondering if your manuscript is dybbuks, don’t give up. If your manuscript is out on submission now to agents or editors and it’s been what seems forever, don’t despair. If your book is about to be or is recently published and your Amazon ranking/book reviews/Bookscan numbers are not what you dreamed, chin up.
Think of Karen Fisher and take charge of your dreams.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007