Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Taking Stock

It's early evening on December 25. I'm thoroughly stuffed with Christmas dinner. I've opened presents and watched my family open theirs. My son is upstairs, practicing his tempo and finger-thumping on Guitar Hero III (Dad's turn comes later). And I'm sitting downstairs, looking at the lights on the tree and thinking about the day and the year.

I'm not going to say it's been an easy year; it hasn't. It's been a long year of learning (yet again) that nothing moves quickly in the publishing world, that "nays" outnumber "yaes," and that writing is a stressful way to make a living.

But there have been blessings as well.
I've been blessed by the love and patience of my wife— and most especially by her understanding. When well-meaning others have said something on the order of "you just need to write a bestseller like John Grisham," she understands just what a gut-punch a sentence like that is. She shares my frustration when another "no" comes in, and my elation when that rare and beautiful "maybe" arrives as well. And she assures me that the "yes" will indeed one day come. Surely her value is higher than rubies.

I've also been blessed by my critique group. They've offered me support and encouragement, as well as the honest advice necessary for the writer to succeed. As I've written before here, you cannot write alone and be a success. Tolkien and Lewis had the Inklings. I have been blessed to have the Knights of the Library Study Table. (Not really our official name. Our official name seems to be "the writers' group that gets together in Brentwood every Friday, more or less.") (You can visit the websites of two of my fellow writers via the links to the left.)

I've been blessed by the support of my regional chapter of SCBWI (also in the links to the left). Tracy Barrett, Candie Moonshower, Genetta Adair, Patsi Trollinger, and Alan Gratz have all offered encouragement and advice, which I treasure. I also have to extend my thanks to Ben Weiss and Jaramy Connor, from my e-mail critique group. There are undoubtedly others I've neglected to mention, for which I must beg forgiveness. Thanks to you all! (By the way, the links in this paragraph are to their web sites featuring some truly great books. If you want a good read for the holidays, you can't go wrong starting with these authors!)

I've been blessed, as I said, by a few "maybes—" those moments when an editor or agent says, "Yes, this sounds interesting. I'd love to read it." Those maybes are precious. And even on the few occasions when they turn into "nays," the "nays" occasionally turn out to be longer and more helpful than the form letter in the return envelope. (Like all writers, I hate those.)

Other blessings have come from family, from friends, from my church, and all from my God... the God whose Son's birth I sit and contemplate today.

So, on this day I offer thanks for blessings. I offer thanks for hope. And I offer thanks for love.

"And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love."

May you too know these blessings.

Merry Christmas!

--- Howard Shirley (who's off to try my hand at Guitar Hero.)

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