How to Be An Overnight Sensation in Twenty Years or Less

When people approached me on my recent trip to NYC for BEA to talk to me about my new book, they almost all expressed surprise that SKINNY was my debut novel. Mostly, I just smiled and nodded because, honestly, it was just too hard to explain.

SKINNY is my first novel...that was published.

They didn't know (and I didn't tell them) about the many, many picture book manuscripts, the early reader series, and the two completed young adult novels that didn't sell.  I also didn't tell them I wrote and submitted my first children's manuscript, a picture book, in 1992.

Twenty years ago.

Many times over the years I was close. Dream crushingly close.  I had some small successes.  There were agents...submissions... but, ultimately, rejections.  Lots and lots of rejections. I raged, and then grieved, the really tough ones. I gave up many times. Sometimes for years.

Eventually I picked myself up, applied what I'd learned, and wrote the next thing. It was the writing itself that drew me back.  I wanted to put words on the page.  I wanted to create characters and stories. Maybe I would never be an author, and maybe no one would read it, but I would always be a writer.

So then I wrote the next thing.

And the next.  And the next.

And, eventually, I wrote SKINNY.

Hopefully, I'll write many more publishable novels that connect with readers.  I wish I could say it was easier now.  It isn't.  Perhaps I'm a better writer now, and I've learned much about publishing, but it's never easy to share your heartfelt writing with a larger audience.

If you are in the midst of rejection, you don't want to hear my story. You especially don't want to hear that it might take time and that you might have to face many more setbacks.  At this moment, it's hard to think of the next thing.

That's okay.


Then grieve.

Then open up your computer and write something wonderful that never would have come out of you without everything that came before.


You know, it's bad news to hear it could take forever (if, indeed, 20 years is forever, but I guess in the Publishing World it's more like an eye blink).

But it's good news to hear that if I stick with it, if I keep coming back to putting words on the page, the whole publishing thing could eventually happen.

And if it doesn't? I still have stories that only I could have written.


Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm still at the beginning of my journey (only 3 years in!) but I still needed to hear this now.

You are what being a writer is about. No matter what, you write. I am thankful that you've passed this signpost in your career, and I know it will only be a signpost. I hope you achieve many accolades as you continue to write.

I keep telling myself that I already am a writer because I write. I have several novels, I think 5 completed ones done. But they aren't anything I'd ever submit anywhere. I'M rejecting them.

But I know it's a long haul to the publishing stage. I know I may never be a published author. I have to be okay with that. But I have a long way to go from here to there.

There are so many authors with so many different stories. I'm sure all of you have different experiences with how you became published. Sometimes everything just falls into place. But endurance and the faith in yourself to go on after the rejection, that's what all authors seem to have in common. At least that's what I take away from your stories.

Thanks for sharing! Both your story Skinny and your publishing story.


Donna this is such a wonderful post. Thank you.

A lovely post that echoes my experience. I've also just launched my debut YA novel in the UK (earlier in the US) after writing for 20 years and experiencing many crushing disappointments. I still agree that "never give up" is the best advice any writer can receive. Congratulations on your debut and good luck for the future!

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