Monday, February 8, 2010

I Insist it's Good to Know the Odds When You're Navigating the Publishing World

Some of you, I won't name names... Cam... complained that my last post was a bit depressing. Especially, I assume, the part about how the house always has the odds. But I maintain it was not depressing. It was empowering. Hear me out.

Maybe I should've ended that section with a sentence along the lines of:
"You Can Do It!" said in thick Romanian accent, like a gymnastics coach who will carry his lame little gymnast.

Or I could've gone all Stuart Smalley on your bum, and forced you to repeat: "I deserve good things, I am entitled to my share of happiness. I refuse to beat myself up. I am an attractive person. I am fun to be with."

Or, we could choose those immortal words Han Solo uttered in Empire Strikes Back: "Never tell me the odds!"
But that doesn't change the fact that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

Oh man, there I go again. You see, I'm sorta in a position in which the odds are comforting. It's a formidable river, where the currents are working their hardest to pull me under, and sometimes they do. And each time the river wins, it helps for me to acknowledge the fierceness of my competitor.

How embarrassing it would be if I kept being pulled under by a white fluffy bunny. 

But I call myself a writer. Okay, really I call myself a typist. I write. And even though the river has had it's fair share of victories, I've made some distance across it. And one of these days, if the weather holds, and my boat is yar, I'll make it to the other side and the victory will be that much sweeter.

The only people that will make it across, are the ones who dare. Everyone, at one point, has dipped their toe in to test the temperature. Will you shiver and back away? Or will you kiss your loved ones good-bye, and dive in?

Anne Lamott points to a poem in her book on writing "Bird by Bird". If you haven't read it, it's worth a perusal. Anyway, Bill Holm says it much more eloquently than I.

"August in Waterton, Alberta":

Above me, wind does its best
to blow leaves off
the aspen tree a month too soon.
No use wind. All you succeed 
in doing is making music, the noise
of failure growing beautiful. 

And this applies to anything you're doing in life, but I'll use writers as an example. Writers are mad as snakes. But it's the "mad" who go up against the rivers and win. 

Ummm, so... go you.


  1. I think you won me over with the part about the fluffy white bunny. You're right: it does make the success sweeter if the competition is fierce. I won a writing contest once where I was the only entry in my category. That sucked. (I mean, I still accepted the prize money, & money is always cool, but still . . .)

  2. I thought Matt Kirby and Sara Zarr had really good things to say on this subject as well at Writing for Charity this summer. Both talked about how you WILL be published if you're always in the game. You just have to be willing to revise, improve and continue to plug along. It gave me a lot of hope actually.

    Very much like being at the table when the dice are hot.

    And networking is different once again. It used to be WHAT you know, then WHO you know, but now ... it's who knows YOU.

    So yay for your blog today. I agree just get out in the middle of that stream. Commit and try. You've got to eventually succeed right?

  3. I absolutely agree. The satisfaction of winning has everything to do with how hard it was to win. That's why we shoot for the national market, no? Even if it never happens. I love that poem. Ann Lamott rocks.

  4. I don't know why anyone would think gambling is depressing. Yeah, the house may win most of the time, but as long as you are having fun and spending quality time with friends or family, losing outrageous amounts of money is not such a big deal.

    Have you all seen those commercials of Vegas? People only have fun there, no heartbreak or lost money. Just good times.

  5. Nikki- Exactly! It doesn't mean we should give up. It means we should beef up.

    Sara- J.A. Konrath says the same thing: If you never give up, you will be published. You WILL.

    Elena- What's that saying? Shoot for the stars, and if you don't make it, catch the moon on the way back. Oh, wait. That might not be the saying. Anywho, you get my drift. And you, more than anyone, knows exactly what I mean with this post, right?

    Sam- Yes, Vegas is a shiny happy place, where it rains money, and when you get drunk, you puke sunshine.

  6. Thanks for this follow-up blog. I'm more of a Hans Solo, in that I don't want to know the odds. Lalalalala! I'm not listening! Don't wanna know how many people more talented than me tried and failed because their luck--which is probably better than mine--wasn't good enough. I'd rather go on thinking that my talent (which--shut up!--is brilliant, by the way) will inevitably lead to success.

    ...but I do appreciate that I'm not up against a fluffy bunny (though, if it has big, pointy teeth...). Success will be so much sweeter when I defeat the river. I do take a lot of confort in thinking about all the wimps who don't even dare to get wet and who walk away without trying. :):) More under-tows for me.

    Today's word verification is for that feeling when you finally get that phone call that someone wants to buy your book and you can't form coherent thoughts anymore: flumvxl.

  7. You have elevated yourself to my BFF because of your Star Wars quote. And not only was it a Star Wars quote, it was a Han Solo quote! You're my hero! :)

    That's great post! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Robin- Hey, sometimes it is very good to put your fingers in your ears and sing a song loudly! The good thing about these odds, as opposed to Vegas odds, is that we can do something about it. Take classes, attend conferences, work on the craft. All of these things help the numbers game.

    Jenni- Yay! I'm your BFF! It's about time. I've got a lot more Star Wars quotes in my arsenal too.

  9. Okay, okay, okay!!! Sheeesh. Here is what I got out of's better to have the crap kicked out of you by a huge bohemoth than a little girl.

    Yeah. Cause it will hurt less?

    Know what I did with Cheerleaders in High School? I naired their shampoo and slashed their tires!

    Hee, hee. Just kidding. Thanks for the pep talk! I always hate knowing the odds...ignorance is bliss!

  10. Cam- Yes, I would rather break my leg skiing off the K-12 (name the movie) than tripping down my stairs. Either way, my leg is broken, but at least the K-12 leaves no survivors.

    Okay, enough of the analogies. We should just be happy that when an editor rejects our work, they don't have to resort to pulling on the brass knuckles to make sure the message sinks in.

    I always knifed the cheerleaders and naired their tires. Was I doing it wrong all along?

  11. Wow. Another great writing post. Thanks for the pep talk- I need a pep talk... writings almost hitting a stand still. Still chuggin', still chuggin'.

  12. Olivia- Keep chuggin'! Get those chips on the table. I feel a 10 the hard way coming up...

  13. Awesome post. I love that we aren't going up against the fluffy bunny. Where's the chalange in that?

    You're so right. Beating the odds will be sweet.

    Here's crossing my fingers.

  14. I love that: "the noise of failure growing beautiful." What an excellent view.

  15. Love this post Brodi. Especially the poem. Go YOU! For diving in! You'll land yourself on the other shore in time. I have no doubt! What have been your favorite books about writing?

  16. Leisha- Then we'd have to have a poster hanging over our beds that reads, "Tomorrow, I kill the Bunny!" And people would think we're weirder than we already are.

    L.T. - I wish I could write like the poet.

    Cath- Thanks for the encouragement! As for books on writing, I love:
    Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
    On Writing by Stephen King

    For me, they're sit down and enjoy classics.

    For more technical stuff:
    Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham

    Self-Editing for Fiction writers. (Bree would tell you this is the Writer's Bible.)

  17. p.s. Cath- What are your favorites?

  18. I'm glad that you will not be deterred by a fluffy bunny. If I ever decide to start writing I will be sure to remember that.

    Just one question, would you ski the K-12 with just one ski? :) I love that movie!

  19. Sometimes it is nice to know the odds. If you make it, the victory is so much sweeter.

  20. Kayla- Yay for the movie reference! You win the fluffy bunny award. It's a gold star.

    Mary- Exactly!

  21. Your post is exactly why I love watching the Olympics. They always tell these great stories of how people have survived their hardships and persevered through to become a champion. I love it! So go Olympics and GO YOU! Great post!

  22. Brod - my favorite so far is: If You Want to Write: A book about Art, Independence, and Spirit by Brenda Ueland. When she talks about writing, she's talking about any art form. Straightforward. Encouraging. She believes anyone can write. And even has a chapter called"Why women should neglect their housework for their writing" - I think I need to re-read this one! Thanks for the list. I think I'll pick up the Anne Lamott book.

  23. I don’t remember white fluffy bunnies, but I remember one-skied K12 runs. I’ll have to watch that movie again. (Twist my arm)

    I am published now. I’ve had art in European magazines and an article and a review in a national American magazine. So I met my goal of getting published. I should be happy. That’s what I wanted, right? But along the way I kept getting pulled under by the undertow of children’s book publishing. I haven’t crossed that river yet and it bothers me. So I keep coming up for air and trying again. The other successes only wet my appetite for roast bunny, I suppose. Or fronch fries. Or roast bunny with raisins. I like raisins.

    Great post!

  24. Erin- Those commercials are so good. I can't wait for the Olympics!

    Cath- You know how much I love to neglect my housework in order to write. I'll have to get me a copy of that book.

    Douglas- "Fronch Fries". I love it. Thanks for hanging out in the middle of the river with me.

  25. I insist this is the reason I feel it is not the 'season' for me to write just yet. My personality just isnt in a place just yet to go up against it all. I'd love to, maybe, someday.

  26. Debbie- Despite the odds, remember that you have nothing to lose, really. Keep writing, and then when you're ready to put yourself out there, you'll have the skillz, chica.