Elizabeth Hein’s Route to Publication – a lesson in learning the craft, a lesson in not giving up or giving in…
I am very glad to hand over my blog today to Elizabeth Hein who lives in North Carolina. We have only met online – but as a regular reader of her blog Scribbling in the Storage Room I have been following her writing career with interest. Her tenancity is an example to us all.
Over to Elizabeth….
The road to publication is never smooth. A writer can fall into the pothole of endless querying or get mired down in sands of self-doubt. It helps to travel in a caravan.
It took me eight year to get my new novel, How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, from an idea to a book you can hold in your hand. I would not have been able to do that without help along the way.
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2002. Cancer and its treatment stole a year of my life and any delusions I had that I had time to put off my dreams for “later.” I was always an avid reader, but I didn’t feel I had the life experience to be a writer until I went through the crucible of cancer treatment. I’ve got lots to talk about now.
When I first sat down to write, I intended to put together a series of essays based on my experiences as a cancer patient. It was awful – dry, maudlin, a bit academic. I couldn’t capture the human struggles of the people I met in essays, so I wrote the story of four women that meet in a hospital waiting room. That was the first draft of what would eventually become How To Climb The Eiffel Tower.
The novel went through a dozen or so drafts because I had to learn how to write a novel, while writing a novel. I played with changing points of view, cut two of the original four main characters out of the story, and rethought the structure several times. During the intervening years, I also joined multiple critique groups. These groups were invaluable in my journey from woman scribbling in the storage room to published author. Several of the groups were filled with mean, petty people, yet they taught me how to stand up for my characters and become more confident in myself as an author. Other groups have been filled with honest, constructive critique partners. These people have read and reread my novels until they knew my characters almost as well as I do. It is a rare treat to watch your critique group argue about why one of your characters would or would not do something. That is the pinnacle of support.
In 2010, I had taken the manuscript as far as I could and started querying agents. I didn’t get anywhere, but I did learn quite a bit about resilience and the value of hard work. The querying process convinced me to put the manuscript aside for a while and write another book. For the next two years, I wrote Overlook, a snarky look at the underbelly of a snooty subdivision in the New South. I decided to self-publish that book under my own imprint, Winterfield Press. Several of my critique partners also self-published their books in 2013, so we worked together and learned from each other’s mistakes.
After the break, I returned to my original manuscript with new eyes. Over much of 2013, I stripped the story down and rewrote it. This time around, I decided to only query a few agents and concentrate on finding a small press to publish Lara’s story. I met Elizabeth Turnbull of Light Messages Publishing at a local conference. Light Messages is a family-owned business that publishes novels with thought provoking messages. I was immediately impressed with them and decided to send them a query. They liked the pages I sent them, asked to see the rest of the manuscript, and offered me a contract in early 2014. From there, it’s been a whirlwind of activity. I am overjoyed to be working with Light Messages. The editorial staff has been a pleasure to work with and I feel they are as invested in the success of my book as I am.
Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.
More about ELIZABETH
She grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. In 2002, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse. Prior to the new book’s publication, Elizabeth was invited to attend the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference and has received excellent advanced reviews on her break-out new book.
Elizabeth writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. Her first novel, Overlook, spotlighted a housewife dealing with a cheating husband and the pressures of keeping up appearances. She has published several short stories and is currently writing a novella and beginning to write a historical family saga about how love and identity effect four generations of women. She and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.
Great post! Thank you ladies! Elizabeth you seem to be an amazing woman and you deserve the best of luck.
This is an inspirational post in so many ways and Elizabeth is a real role model. She has worked at her craft and worked and worked, taking criticism, ploughing through the negative comments without being destroyed, reflecting on the constructive observations and embracing those that rang true, willing to ditch months of work if it meant creating something better…boy, does she deserve every luck and success and a heap of good things (including readers). .
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