If I had to choose between trying to sell a novel or writing a new one, I would choose writing a new one. Hands down. Every time. And yet the insecure part of me (the deep down critic that insists I’m not a real writer unless I’m published) and the practical part of me (the academic who knows I won’t get that tenure track position with my MFA unless I have a traditionally published novel) push me towards publication very much in spite of myself.
This is where my L’Atelier community comes in. Yes, I have instant, year-round access to insightful feedback on my work. Yes, I can ask for advice or names of agents and publishers and conferences and receive it. But what I treasure most about my friendships with the L’Atelier writers is the total assurance that I’m not alone in the world. That someone else has experienced the same insecurities and doubts that I experience every time I hit send on an email query. And because I deeply admire the work of these writers, I can harbor a secret hope that I’m a good writer too. That my increasing pile of rejections will result in an eventual acceptance. Because on some level, perhaps the most important level, I’ve already been accepted.
In my everyday life, I like to think I’m a strong person. I’m a professor. A mother. A savvy city-dweller. I can deliver conference presentations at prestigious academic institutions. I can bandage a head wound and perform triage on a daily basis. I can cycle through downtown Boston with a six-year-old hanging on the back of my cargo bike for dear life. So after the unadulterated bliss of last year’s retreat, I had no idea how much I would crave the support and understanding of other writers. But the past year has taught me the importance of finding a group of like-minded people to motivate and console me when I am at my most vulnerable. And somehow, I find the courage to keep submitting.