Tuesday, May 22, 2007


By Amy

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.


kristen spina said...

Thank you for this...We do need to hear it over and over again, don't we?

And it sounds like I have another must read for the stacks.

Lyz said...

Seriously, most inspirational blog ever. I love reading this blog because it always makes me so proud to be a writer.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Kristen, you won't be disappointed. Personally, I can't hear these stories enough. Read Hank Phillippi Ryan's blog (Jungle Red) and you'll feel equally inspired.

M.W., thank you so much! You should be proud, Guideposts? Let us know so when.


Larramie said...

Gosh, Amy, you gave me goose bumps by telling Karen's story. It reads like a fairy tale and yet we know nothing could be further from the truth. Thank you for a lovely *sigh.*

Anonymous said...

This was a great blog entry. I'm buying the book - it sounds like my kind of read.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, I think I shed a tear while interviewing her. She's such a humble, brilliant person. Read the first line of her book and you'll understand what a writer she is.

Fotini (I love that name!), thank you and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Glad to hear you're buying it; we need to support debut authors.


Melissa Amateis said...

I definitely needed to hear this today. I keep obsessively checking my email, waiting for some word on the partials or queries I have out. The waiting just never seems to stop. Some days I handle it better than others, and today hasn't been a good day for that. But your post cheered me up immensely. Thank you. :-)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Oh, Melissa, I've got stories! You know that old chestnut about it being darkest before the light, well, it seems that's true for writers. Just lasst month a friend called after receiving her umpteenth declination from editors. She thought her dream was dying. Two days later, her book sold. O' glory day! You have the will, drive, the passion to keep writing until you're published. I've read your blog, you'll get there,I believe in you.


Therese Fowler said...

The pleasure of success, when it comes, takes all the edges off the anxieties of everything that came before.

I'm pleased to have finally gotten my "yes," but as you all know, it was a long time and many, many rejections in coming.

Persevere, everyone. Amy has it precisely right.

Melissa Amateis said...

Thank you so much, Amy, for the good wishes. :-) Don't you just love all the support that writers give one another? I think it keeps me going on days like today. :-)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Therese, ah, the yes. But when exactly do the anxieties fall by the wayside?

Melissa, don't always expect support from other writers, it can be a cruel business, but do always expect it here.


Therese Fowler said...

Amy, the truth is that there are always anxieties to come--but after that yes, the prick of all the no's goes away. And the new anxieties, well, you sort of welcome them (or I do, anyway) because they are part and parcel of what you were working so hard to have.

Anonymous said...

I have anxiety attacks, that say get away from writing ; run, run, run. Play tennis or golf. Watch more movies. Life is too short.
And still I carry on.
Amy thank you , for helping me carry on.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Reality, I have the same anxiety (one of many). Sometimes, when I'm called back to my real life, I realize I've been living too long in the world of my characters. Is that healthy? I don't know, it just is. Thanks for stopping by.

Michelle Zink said...

Oh, man.

I really needed this post.

After eight months of waiting, just when I start thinking it's hopeless, I read something like this, and then I keep going.

Thank you!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

That's right, Michelle, keep going, move forward. You'll get there. You will.


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