I had the pleasure of being introduced to Heather Newton when her editor sent me her lovely manuscript
Under The Mercy Trees. I was thrilled to offer a blurb on this lyrical first novel that you can pre-order here: Under The Mercy Trees
When I asked Heather to guest blog she graciously accepted and I am thrilled to be able to introduce her to you here today.
Sense Enough (Not) to Quit by Heather Newton
When I was in the eleventh grade, with no idea how the publishing industry (or the world) worked, I decided I was going to be a writer. Full of confidence as only a kid can be, I submitted a children’s book to Harper & Row publishers. I had forgotten all about this until I sorted through some old files recently and found the envelope in which Harper had returned my manuscript. The rejection slip itself was long gone, but clearly Harper had decided it could live without publishing my story. The envelope, postmarked June 2, 1981, bore the same return address that Harper–now HarperCollins–uses today. I sat down and laughed, because this winter, HarperCollins will publish my novel, Under the Mercy Trees. It got me wondering. What if, when I was seventeen, some winged visitor from the future had told me that yes, Harper would publish my work, but I would have to wait twenty-eight years and amass a respectable pile of rejection slips first. Would I have had the sense to choose another path, or would I have kept writing?
In the years since that envelope arrived, I have been tempted to quit writing only twice. The first was when a short story of mine was one of three finalists in a contest sponsored by a well known women’s magazine. The magazine contacted me and told me that of the three finalists, the winner and one runner up would be published. I had never had a story published and enjoyed a few weeks of hope before the magazine contacted me again and informed me I was not the winner or the runner up. There was something horribly disheartening about getting that close and failing–similar to how it’s more upsetting to miss a plane by two minutes than to miss it by two hours.
The second crisis came when I read a novel that was so good I despaired that I would ever be able to write anywhere near as well. The novel was A Parisian from Kansas. It had that effect on me because it was about a writer writing, and in addition to weaving a fantastic story it revealed the writing process of its author, Philippe Tapon–one of those rare “born writers” who breathe out beautiful prose. It didn’t help that he was only twenty-eight when he wrote it. My work seemed so primitive in comparison I felt there was no point in continuing.
Fortunately, both times, my resolution to quit didn’t last. After about two days, characters started wandering around in my head again and I stopped wallowing and went back to my keyboard. I have learned to celebrate the close failures as steps to something better, and I am so grateful that there will always be other writers more talented than I am whose work I can enjoy.
So, if the angel from the future had warned me, would I have had sense enough to choose a different path? I really don’t think I could have–nobody has ever accused me of having good sense.
Copyright 2010 by Heather Newton
Heather Newton’s debut novel Under the Mercy Trees is forthcoming from HarperCollins in January 2011. She is an attorney and mediator in Asheville, NC, where she lives with her husband and daughter. www.heathernewton.net