Hello and thank you to the MG Book Village for hosting me at a very exciting time: the launch day of my debut novel, The Way I Say It!
The Way I Say It (Charlesbridge) is about a sixth grader named Rory who can’t say R sounds (and therefore can’t say his own name). He thinks that’s his biggest problem until an accident forces him to confront conflicted feelings about a former friend. The two boys struggle to reconcile old wounds as they navigate their new normal with the help of speech therapist Mr. Simms, heavy metal music, and Muhammad Ali.
Many authors have ‘bumpy road to publication’ stories, and I am no different. In fact, it took five years to get from first contract to holding my first copy. (It was a frost-heave, pothole filled path!) And even before those detours, I had been journeying for six years on back roads where I’d garnered close to 200 combined rejections across multiple manuscripts.
It is said that writers and illustrators who pursue publication need more determination than is reasonable. I have to say that’s probably true. It’s not reasonable: eleven years, 200 rejections, with more to come. What in the world possessed me to keep going? Where was this persistence coming from?
What is going to keep you going toward your 2022 goals?
You may have heard this saying from British Novelist and Philosopher Iris Murdoch (it’s one of my favorites):
Here’s my spin:
“One of the secrets to a successful writing life (or any big endeavor!) is continuous small encouragements.”
If you are going to have more determination than is reasonable, you will also need an arsenal of support. Here are some of my best suggestions for setting up your creative life in a way that ensures that the nearly incessant encouragement you’re going to need is never far away.
Encouragement from outside sources can be a huge lift to anyone in a solitary endeavor, and contests and awards are a great way to put your work out there. In 2014, I entered a picture book text and won a Tassy Walden Award (for unpublished writers in Connecticut). One of the smartest things I did, in hindsight, was to spend a portion of the winnings on a decorative mirror I’d had my eye on. We were a young family with a pile of bills, and the purchase felt like an extravagance. But, I bought the mirror, and I hung it in a spot that I’d pass by frequently. And on my worst days, when rejections were piling up and discouragement was nudging me to give up, this is what I’d see.
Every time I saw it, that dang mirror seemed to be saying: You’re not giving up. You’re an award-winning writer. You have the mirror to prove it!
Now, you don’t need to buy anything or start talking to your reflection like I did, but I do encourage you to have a physical object somewhere in your living space that will say to you daily: keep writing. Keep drawing. Keep creating. Keep going.
Another way to secure your daily dose of encouragement is to find your people and speak your goals out loud to them. There are writers and readers just like you, longing to connect and geek out about kidlit at the drop of a hat. Middle Grade Book Village is a perfect example of that type of community! Reach out in real life and on social media to connect. These are your people, we are your people, ready and waiting to encourage you, and looking forward to the gift of your support in return.
And finally, focus on what’s fun. There’s plenty of frustration and discouragement in life. You don’t need to give those any extra time. Give your attention and energy to the joy of doing the work, and to the fabulous people your particular journey has brought and will bring into your life.
Look for any opportunity to give and receive continuous small encouragements so that the creative, amazing human you already are can continue to grow and reach toward that next goal.
Give it space. Give it time. And Don’t Give Up.
Nancy Tandon is a former speech/language pathologist and author of two middle grade novels, The Way I Say It (Charlesbridge, 1/18/22) and The Ghost of Spruce Point (Aladdin, 8/2/22). Her short story, Finders Keepers, was published with Heinemann for the educational market. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her family and is a fan of popcorn, reading, and literacy outreach programs of all kinds.
To find out more, or to get in touch with Nancy: