Monday, June 25, 2012

And this is why I don't tell family I write

I recently spent some time with extended family, and the topic of "what I was up to" came up, as it does with us young-ish folk. Since the partner-in-crime and I are not making little criminal babies, people naturally assume something horrible has gone wrong in our relationship. At which point I explain no, we're just busy doing other stuff we want to do first. For me, that includes pursuing writing. Which, as soon as I say it, opens the door to questions/comments like:


- Oh, that's a nice hobby, I like to knit.
- What are you writing about? Can I read it?
- Hurry up and get published already!
- What is YA?
- What does your husband think about this? (honestly got that question)
- I've got an idea for a children's book about a penguin that flies in space.
- Oh, you should give the book to Aunt Jemima/Uncle Herbert/your cousin LooptyLoo, they would be a good person to read it and tell you if it's good or not.

I think we've all suffered some form of these kinds of inquiries, because non-writer types really don't understand what it's like. They don't understand that it's a profession, they don't understand that we're serious about it, and they really REALLY don't understand how the industry works. When I told someone recently that it could take up to two years to get a book published AFTER you got a signed contract, I had to get a forklift to pick his jaw up off the floor. It's such a different model from any other business that most people are familiar with, and they don't understand how it works.

Not that people don't mean well, because they do. They want us to succeed, they want us to be happy, they want to see our name in lights (or maybe that's just me). But I spend more time patiently (or not so patiently) explaining that no, you don't just submit to publishers and yes, you do have to do significant editing before you even send out a query letter. And yes, there's a thing called a query letter, and yes, it's the bane of my existence.

But all of this to say, spending time with people who don't get it makes the people who do get it all the more special to me. Having my time with my critique group, my writer friends, and my blogger friends keeps me sane, because we all need to find a corner of the world that understands us and our dreams. I'll save telling my family I write for when I can just hand them a book and answer all their questions :).

What one question/comment do you get the most? Which do you hope you never hear again?

7 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The worst for me was when I got a publishing contract to re-release the novel I self-published under a new title. Relatives were SO-O-O excited for my "second" book. I don't know how many times I had to explain that it was the same book as before. (And just imagine how slump-shouldered and apologetic I was every time I explained it.) Only other writers understood the significance of this accomplishment.

Now, finally, I can say yes, I have a second book coming out. Explaining that it won't be available until spring 2013 ... more slumped shoulders and apologies.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I don't mind any of the questions, probably because I love explaining how weird and different the publishing industry really is. Maybe I just haven't gotten enough questions yet. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, I hear ya! I've had an agent for a year and a alf and all my family can talk about is "When is your book getting published?" Saying, "Well, we've trunked that novel and I'm working on another one" doesn't sound like progress to to your average non-writer. :(

Good luck, JEM!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My least favorite comment is, "Have I read your book?" Because I apparently know all the books the person has read. As if.

I used to talk about writing to non writers. Then I started blogging and made friends with writers who understood what it's like to be a writer. Don't know how I would survive without them. :D

mshatch said...

I think my favorite is when I mention that an agent requested my full manuscript and all I get is a, 'oh, that's nice.'

Christina Lee said...

Ah yes *sigh* "Just self-publish and get it over with, we'll all buy it(after I explain that *for now* I am pursuing traditional, for my won reasons)." :D

Christine Danek said...

Oh I'm with ya. I guess it's like with any profession, if you don't know, you don't get it. I wish I would've keep my writing quiet to my non-writer relatives and friends. I always get how's it going? Did you get an agent yet? That's a great hobby. All of which I don't want to hear.