I have no idea how many books I'd drafted--and submitted--and revised--when I started writing the YA that would eventually be my very first published book (A Blue So Dark).

I do know that I got the idea for it a whopping two months before the deadline for the Delacorte Contest for a First Young Adult Novel. Two months to write and revise an entire book and get it into shape to be submitted for a contest is the kind of thing you can pretty easily talk yourself out of.

But I did the opposite: I talked myself into it.

I made that deadline with a few days to spare.

Did I win?


But I got the manuscript back with a note: "Your book has promise!"

I had received feedback on submitted manuscripts before. I had been told I had talent. Encouraged to keep with it. My work had been complimented. So may times, it would have been easy to convince myself that this little note didn't amount to much. Just some two-second little bit of praise scrawled on the top of the manuscript before sliding it back into the return SASE and shipping it back my way (yep--I come from the era of print submissions).

But I did the opposite: I talked myself into believing that meant something. An important kind of something.

I believed that book was going to be it. My first yes.

I gave myself another two months to revise. And then I submitted. I submitted to agents and publishing houses. I submitted to some additional contests. I gave that book the ultimate priority. It got my attention first and foremost, and if there was time at the end of the day, I turned to some of the other manuscripts I was submitting as well.

But I had it in my head: that book--that Delacorte Press submission--was going to sell.

And it did. It was, in fact, my first yes.

I'm well aware that much of the publishing world is out of our hands. You can decide (especially during the holidays) that the coming year is your year: you'll get an agent. A pub deal. It's all going to happen! Just deciding that--or having a positive outlook--doesn't necessarily translate to success.

BUT: I think what made the difference for me was that I changed my mind about what kind of work could be accomplished. I was sick and tired of trying to clear the hurdle of getting into the publishing world (selling that first book) only to fall on my face.

That book convinced me to put everything I had behind one work. Every last ounce of strength.

It's the book that changed my mind about what was possible.


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