Our Dreams Persist

Last Saturday morning, I hit the freeway and headed west for my very first book fair as an author. While nervously rethinking all my gear (DVD player for book trailer, books, small bills for change, pens, etc.) I suddenly realized I was living my dream, returning as a published author to the town where I’d spent most of my corporate career. No matter how much my day job beat me up, I had never stopped dreaming of becoming a writer, and now, I was one! I stopped fretting about my equipment and indulged in some memories:

  • I was 26, newly divorced and living in a bad part of town in a tiny (780 sq. ft.) house with my eighteen-month-old son. Working full-time (with side jobs selling Jafra and bartending), and mostly exhausted. Writing was a very distant dream. Like never.
  • I was 36, living in the high desert and commuting down the Cajon Pass every day for my HR job at Jurupa Unified School District. On my weekend morning walks, I carried a little tablet and a pencil in my pocket, and worked out solutions to scenes in my head. Those scenes went in a box, awaiting the day I could shape them into stories.
  • I was 38, sitting in my car at the Cedar Springs Dam, overlooking Lake Silverwood. The car was rocking, buffeted by an incoming squall, while I wrote in a tablet. My second marriage was on its last legs, and I was dying a little bit inside as I watched storm clouds engulf the distant shore. I felt incompetent as a grown-up, let alone the fact that I would never be a writer.
  • I was 48, and my son was independent. Now that I was finally able to work part-time and write, they told me I missed my shot. The publishing industry had changed. Agents and publishers now asked that you first develop a platform (i.e. thousands of ready customers). So while I learned how to put together a novel, I also built a website; I created and discarded three blogs before finding one that felt like home (this one); and learned about Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networking sites.
  • I am now 58. Dakota Blues is published! My novel has become a reality, and like the Little Red Hen, I did it all myself. That is, if you discount the three editors, cover designer, book trailer developer, and publishing and marketing services. Not to mention several mentors, my beloved friends, and a supportive family.

Please buy my book. Please?

So, on Saturday I arrived at the book fair, got set up, met everybody, ate a couple cookies provided by our thoughtful hosts, and waited for the doors to open. It was September 15, what would have been my dad’s 88th birthday, so I looked heavenward and asked him for luck.

When it was over, I’d invested six hours (if you count the drive) on this mission to tell people about Dakota Blues. If you measure the day in human terms, it was a ten. I enjoyed the company of my fellow authors, the library staffers and volunteers, and the people who dropped in to see what was for sale.

In pure commercial ROI, however, it wasn’t so great. I sold five copies, which was more than most of my fellow authors. I donated to the library, swapped copies with another author, and when you throw in a few more bucks for gas, I broke even.

When I got home, I sat with my husband and a glass of wine and evaluated. There are other activities that would bring in better results. Like sleeping late and not going anywhere. You know I’m babysitting all week and my weekends are precious. How I would have enjoyed the time off.

Why am I telling you this? It’s kind of embarrassing.

Because I want to show by my example that it’s rarely easy to chase after your dreams, no matter what your age. Many younger people slave away in the wee hours to build the foundation for their dream. It’s not easy for them either. In my case, I sometimes feel foolish to be so obsessed. Us older peeps are encouraged to relax, slow down, smell the flowers, and all that, but I can’t. This is my dream, and I’m going to see it through. I have two more full-length novels in my head and two collections of short stories. I’ll be attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference this weekend to find inspiration and information. I love the company of creative people, and I enjoy thinking of myself as a businessperson, with a storefront on Amazon.com and in the trunk of my car. This is my American Dream. I hope you have one, too.

Dakota Blues, a story of midlife reinvention, our immigrant roots, the sweetness of the American Heartland, the bonds of friendship, and the wisdom of our elders, is available at Amazon.com. If you’ve already read it and enjoyed the experience, please rate it on Amazon, Goodreads or your favorite book site.

Comments

  1. says

    Hello again Lynn,
    I was posting a comment on another of your posts and came back to read some of the others’ comments on this one (I already left a comment) Just had to leave another one about this!! :) I love reading what everyone has to say and was especially moved by Sarah’s post about the mental and physical energy it takes to write. Most “non-writers” (that I know anyway) have no concept of just how hard it is to write and how exhausting it can be – yes, even when you love it and have always felt compelled to write. At times I suffer with depression and SAD in the wintertime, which often makes work very difficult. It’s nice to hear from others who understand and who don’t just think you’re being “lazy” or don’t care. Thanks so much for posting the link about Laura Hillenbrand’s story. I’m going to read it, too. Love you and love your blog!
    Cindy

    • says

      Cindy, reading your comment, I’m filled with gratitude for the fellowship that social media has made possible. We’re all doing the best we can, and sometimes it’s overwhelming, isn’t it? But to know you’re not alone is invigorating, to me anyway. I love hearing from you. Thanks for stopping by, and best wishes with your challenges.

    • says

      Hey Zig! Good to hear from you. Friday is my “coffee with the girls” day. (Although the old dudes are def. welcome, too!) I get that hopey, couragey thing from my friends at AST. See you next Fri!

      • peggy says

        Oh my gosh, Lynne. I’m SO glad you are taking a little time for play, too. I know how busy you’ve been, and just to have a weekly coffee break with your gal pals is wonderful for you. Nourshing, loving time with other women is so important. GOOD FOR YOU. Love, Peg

  2. says

    I sometimes think that this funny idea about “having to have a name, a platform” etc is mainly a sign of people being frightened (rightfully) that the book might not sell, so they try to do everything they can to build a security net. I am not all that sure that it works–or that networking instead of actually working (which seems to be very important to many people) actually works. At least all my experience in advertising tells me that it’s the actual product that does all the work, and the advertisement (or, in your case, “platform”) just gets the word out.
    And I think that you’re in a pretty good place where you are right now, really! So congratulations on that!

    • says

      Hi, Leva. You’re right, developing a platform ahead of time is a hedge against fear of failure, for sure! But I was at a writers’ conference yesterday, and one of the presenters, a forward-looking agent, was asked “has the change in the publishing world affected what publishers are really looking for these days?” and the agent nodded. “It’s more celebrity-inclined”, she said, although I’m paraphrasing both. Clearly celebrities already have a base of readers. Job one, job done. The rest of us are going to have to get the word out ourselves. Which I’m actually enjoying, so thanks for the boost from an advertising professional!

      • peggy says

        Actually, a platform is not so complicated. Boiled down, it’s really nothing more than a writing bio that gives publishers, editors and agents an idea of your qualifications, and provides them with a marketing tool. Yes, it’s very true that sports figures, movie stars, politicians, rock stars, famous scientists and others with celebrity status are widely published. But, no, you don’t have to be a celebrity to have a winning platform. Most successful authors have never attained celebrity status outside of what their own writing has created for them. It’s not difficult to build a platform, but does take a little work.

        I just started a new blog for writers (inspired by Lynne and Jim Parrish), and my next post is about how anyone can create a platform. This is my first attempt at blogging, so I know it’s rough, but I hope to use it to be of help in some way to other writers while building my own following. http://writingandpublishingsuccess.com/ Lynne…you already have a strong platform and I would be honored to help you with it so if you should ever choose the traditional rather than the self-publishing route, you can use it to help find an agent, or to simply query publishers. You have so much going for you, and you are such a fine writer that I’m distressed that somehow somewhere someone gave you the impression that you “missed the boat” on being able to publish traditionally. You are awesomely wonderful, and your writing is also awesomely wonderful.

  3. peggy says

    You inspire me, Lynne. I love your writing, and I love your blog. I’ve resisted starting my own blog because I thought it would detract from my “novel writing time,” but just today I registered a domain name and I’ll be writing a blog. Why? Because aside from a good marketing strategy, your blogs are so beautiful, and thought provoking. I may not comment on every one, but I read every one, and I’m always impressed. Well done, Lynne.

    • says

      Dearest Peggy, it’s enough to know you’re stopping by and enjoying it. Blogging does take away from your novel writing time, that’s the tough part, but like love, it’s hard to say no to it. It’s a part of my heart. I don’t know what I would do without my friends who visit in this space. I feel like I have a giant family with many sisters and some brothers (Jim and Terry!) Thanks for commenting.

  4. says

    You are one of my heroes, Lynne. I am so proud of you!! You continue to prove that people of every age have important things to do and bring zest to life. I love your honesty. I know how difficult it is to talk about those “hard bits” and I aspire to be as open in my life. I talked about Dakota Blues in my book group. I told people that part of my enjoyment was being able to hear my friend, Lynne’s, voice in it and asked them to read it and share their opinion. I know that at least several wrote it down and I will look forward to hearing their thoughts about your inspiring book.

    • says

      Nanci, thanks so much for your kind words. I hope the ladies in your book group feel that Dakota Blues resonates for them. This is a weird, powerful, scary, magical, amazing time – this period between midlife and beyond – and I think we can learn from each other. I am grateful for your friendship, Sis.

  5. peggy says

    Lynne, you did what was most important to you. Wrote a book, and published it. I don’t see anywhere that becoming “famous” or even being a successful author by other people’s definition, or even getting an agent and a publisher to pick up your book rather than doing it yourself, was part of your dream. Your dream was to be a writer, to get your book out there. You did it. I’m proud of you. By the way…you didn’t miss the boat, not by a long shot.

  6. says

    Lynne, you’re my inspiration! After reading what you’ve been through to see your dream come to fruition, I know your sweet dad must have had a hand in it! How exciting to finally be able to call yourself a published author — now get busy and start working on the next novel!

    • says

      Debbie, by the time I’ve soaked off the grandbaby spit-up in my evening bath, I don’t have much energy! But thanks for the kick in the behind. I know I need to keep plugging.

  7. says

    I’m so happy for you! Just reading of your journey and then seeing the adorable smiling picture of you at your author’s table made me smile. Congratulations over and over! At 55 years old – it’s nice to hear. And so encouraging.

    • says

      Barbara, I look like a kindergartner posing for the class picture – all wide-eyed anticipation of what lies ahead. May we never lose that feeling. At 55 you’re just getting your second wind.

  8. says

    I purchased your book through Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon (they ordered it for me). I haven’t had time to read it yet, but it’s on my bedside table. You’ve kept the dream alive and active for yourself – which is encouragement to many others who are still struggling to find their own dream.

    • says

      Oh, Barb, I know what you mean about having a book on the nightstand, ready to go. Thanks so much for buying it. You’ll know as you read it that it was written by your friend, so I hope that adds to the enjoyment!

  9. says

    My friend, Virginia Anderson and I, have put together a manuscript that we are now shopping to agents, so I do identify with your ups and downs.

    The whole platform thing is a laugh/cry situation– we do have a social media presence, but it’s like an agent wants you to already have done their work for them (no offense, agents, but you get my drift). Nothing worthwhile comes easy, so I do applaud you for plugging away.

    Mid-life has its challenges (to put it lightly!), but I try to remember that Margaret Mead quote “There is no more creative force in the world than a menopausal woman with zest.”

    I love your blog, and look forward to reading your book!

    • says

      Thanks, Melanie. You probably know that Dr. Christiane Northrup thinks the post-menopausal brain is flooded with chemicals that enhance intuition, so at least our writing should benefit, right? Very best wishes to you and Virginia. If you want to do a guest blog about your efforts, let me know. We can inspire each other!

  10. Sarah says

    Lynne- thanks for sharing your story with such honesty. I went through a similar trajectory in my mid-forties- after work and kids and divorce and financial struggle, into writing success. But then illness hit and the dream went into abeyance, as I lost the energy needed for continuing to write, never mind sustain and grow the “platform”. Now, at fifty-two, trying to discern how a writing life, and maybe even a writing career, might take shape this time around, in yet-again altered circumstances. Fatigue and despair are the two greatest barriers, That’s why I appreciate your stories of encouragement.

    • says

      Sarah, I have a will of steel and a body of mush. I can’t count on it. Just when I need my physical strength the most, it deserts me, time and time again. That’s why I’m grateful for modern tech, because it allows us to do so much from our home and keyboard. BUT, and this is a big one, I (and probably you, too) can’t do anything if my mind isn’t healthy, rested, and eager. It’s horrible to lay around without even the energy to WANT something, let alone work for it. I know how that feels – it’s so depressing, and I really sympathize. All I can offer in support is to remind you of Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit and Unbroken while dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome. She has said days would pass in which she lacked the strength to hold a pencil. Christ! For what it’s worth, know that you are not alone in your struggle, and I wish you the very best. And be gentle with yourself. Here’s her story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/28/AR2010112803533.html

      • Sarah says

        Thanks Lynne, yes, I know her story- I also have CFS. Many similarities in our illness, though our circumstances are different. What I’ve noticed, based on what I’ve read about Laura, is that we’ve made some different choices. What energy she has is 100% used in writing. I don’t do that, since I want to also spend whatever energy I have on my kids, my marriage, creating a home. It’s been my choice, but I’ve paid a price as a writer. These days I’m focused on finding ways to shift the focus more from caring for others to caring for myself, with writing being the core way I need to take care of myself at the soul level. Thanks for your encouragement. If you’re ever passing through the Bay Area, let us know. Write on! :)

  11. says

    Oh Lynn, you are my hero! You’re living MY dream, too! We’re the same age and have so much in common! I could write almost the same “every ten years timeline” – I, too, was always writing scenes and snippets of conversations on pieces of paper. I, too, am twice divorced, worked at other jobs just to survive while my dream of being an author never left my mind. I’m so proud of you! If I lived close, I would have been there to meet you! It doesn’t matter how many copies you sell (well, sure, I know in a way it does) but the point is you’re PUBLISHED and you were at a book fair with YOUR novel!! You give me hope and encouragement that it’s not too late for me and others like me. Thank you!
    Hugs, Cindy

    • says

      Cindy, I debated whether to include all that, because it’s kind of a downer, but then I thought, might as well be real with my friends. And you’ve confirmed it – we’re all sisters under the skin. Thank you for your heartfelt comment. It means so much.

  12. says

    You are my inspiration! Although our paths are different with our own unique obstacles, like you I never gave up on my dream to write. I can relate to the stages and ages you went through and that nagging obsession of a story that just has to be told. Thanks for giving us Dakota Blues!

    • says

      Haha, Sheila, I didn’t even see it at first. I think sprakling ought to be a word. It would mean something you love that nevertheless hurts you. A combo of sparkling and raking, and in claws. As in, across one’s heart.

  13. says

    Another sprakling post, Lynne. Although I’ve been publishing for years, everything you say still resonates. But really, sit back and relax? That’s great occasionally, but I can’t think of anything sadder than having no dream. I’m not sure what the point would be if we don’t continue to pursue something, whether it’s commercial success or mastery of a new skill or helping someone else along a worthwhile path. Thanks for writing this blog, and hanging onto your dream.

  14. says

    I love your Dreams Persist blog! And, boy, do I know that experience. I slogged everywhere I could with HOT WATER. Drove all the way to Santa Fe, N.M. for 3 book events and a stop at a spa to drop off a few copies. Believe me, I did not break even. But how I cherish the memory of selling books at the Hot Licks Barbeque And Saloon in Bisbee, Arizona, and also at a Women’s retreat in Ojo Caliente north of Santa Fe. And being treated like a celebrity by the managers of a fancy hotel in Santa Fe, free room for one night, gift basket, lunch with the managers, etc. And not one person showed up at my “signing” that night. What the hell.  I sold a copy or two at a table in the spa that afternoon. And had some amazing photos for my web site. I also drove up through CA all the way to Mendocino, book events along the way. Some were good. Some I sat alone and nobody came. I spoke to a group of 5 at Petaluma Library. My publicist at Berkley/Penguin got me signings at Borders everywhere I went and they were dismal. Sitting there trying to draw a customer to my table with, “Hey, are you interested in a  hot, sexy novel?” OMG.So this book selling thing is a mixed bag. I learned that the best events are when you’re the ONLY author. That’s why I did lots of HOT WATER House Parties in private homes. They were great. Also book talks at country clubs, one in DHS and Rancho La Quinta. And book clubs are great fun because they’ve already read the book and the discussion and questions are a kick.When we get together I’ll share some contacts and tell you more.Have a good time at the Southern CA Writers’ Conf.K

      • says

        And from the other half of our blogging team…
        Lynne, I know whereof you speak. I wrote my first three novels back in 1997, and by the time the first one came to market in 1999, the whole “Internet presence” thing was just starting. It’s a tough road, and while book fairs and signings may not bring much in terms of immediate ROI, they establish your “IRL” (in real life) connections within the writing and reading community.
        I think you’re doing a marvellous job, and your book sounds fascinating! I’ll be ordering it ASAP.
        Take care,
        Karen

  15. says

    Hi Lynne, You have a thirteen year head start on me. I have spent most of my life making other people’s dreams and businesses successful. I feel it is important to remember our past shapes us as a writer and helps us to become more productive in the future. I try to remember the successful person is the one working at whatever they enjoy spending their time on.
    Networking on the internet is probably the most efficient way to market any product. The downside is the lack of physical interaction with others. You are a great communicator so my guess is you probably need both. You have the determination and I am sure you will be successful. (You are successful is more accurate)
    Jim

  16. says

    How wonderful that you have been able to follow your dream. Getting published is a huge thing these days. I for one am proud of you and I don’t think we are ever too old to follow our dreams. It’s sometimes harder learning the new rules as we get older, but we are fighters.

    Hugs,
    Laura

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