By Carol Traulsen
I asked Carol to share her journey to publication with us. Becoming a writer is a huge step. Many people want to follow their dreams but are afraid to put themselves out there. Carol was willing to share her story (including her struggles) about what it really means to become a published writer. I hope you enjoy this wonderful insight.
If everything goes according to schedule (which is rare in the world of publishing) my first novel will be released digitally. It’s been a very long rod and there’s a very long way to go. There are no expectations of getting on the New York Times Bestseller List just yet but I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now. I hope to have a long and storied (pun intended) career as a writer. But I am a late bloomer and have a lot of time to make up.
I have been in love with words for a long as I can remember. I was mauled by a dog as a kid and as a result I had scars on my face. I also had teeth that stuck out (two rounds of braces and jaw surgery later fixed that problem- and I was skinny and hairy and pale. I knew I would never be called a beauty. But maybe if I could talk and entertain and sing and dance no one would notice how ugly I was and how ugly I felt. At least that’s how it began. I found solace in song and dance and writing. My love and my talent grew and people began to call me bright and funny. It felt good. At ten I tried to write my first play but I had no idea what I was doing. It was doomed for failure, it seemed.
Writing of all kinds kept me afloat in a world that didn’t appreciate me. I wanted to be a dancer but I started to late. I wanted to be an actress but was told I wasn’t pretty enough or good enough. Writing was what was left. But unless you hit the big time it doesn’t pay the bills.
For some reason people who are involved in the arts are expected to give their work away. And working for free will leave you homeless, even if it’s a good way to build your portfolio. So like every other artist I had a series of day jobs. My gift for gab meant I was good at sales. I sold all kinds of things from cosmetics to china fine crystal and shoes. The writer’s life continued to beckon but my first few attempts at publication for pay failed miserably.
Life, marriage and parenthood meant I put it all on the back burner for years. But cancer, (my own), my sister’s and my mother’s taught me that life is too short not to follow your dreams and too short to do a job you hate. By this time I was burned out on retail and with the support of my wonderful husband I decided it was time to devote myself full-time to my writing career.
I studied. I learned my craft. I carefully selected a genre that welcomed new writers as a means to break into an already crowded field. Writing romance. Really? Yes. Really. First off let me say it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Second There are number of New York Times best selling authors who started out their careers in romance. Stella Cameron comes to mind.
I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I even tried my hand at self-publishing. I failed miserably. But it was a huge learning experience. I went back to the drawing board and reworked some of the manuscripts I’d written years before. I was embarrassed by my work, it was awful and amateurish. It was time for fresh inspiration.
I became obsessed with the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. I didn’t take notes when I watched- I was just fascinated by these people who could create such delightful, edible art and romance and comfort on a plate. I came to the conclusion that food was the new sex. The whole country was obsessed with being food rock stars. The explosion of food competition shows caught my attention.
If food was the new sex the whole country wanted to be seduced. What about a romance based on a food show about the seductive powers of food? I loved it!
In the months that followed I learned about molecular gastronomy and cooking and how to balance the vocabulary of each and keep the romance story alive. My novel differed from other romance novels in that at the center were a hero and a heroine who had goals and lives before they met. Love was not the goal of book. Winning the job as host of the show to pay off debts or launch a culinary empire was. My characters were warm and funny. They had friends and family. They were people. Real people readers would identify with. I wanted to be my heroine. I wanted to be in love with my hero. Finally, maybe I had gotten it right
I slaved for months, certain I’d found the “formula” I’d been seeking. Now I had to find a publisher. Much easier than it sounds. The market is glutted with bad fiction, self-published work and publishers who just want money. Most of them now want you to already have a career they aren’t interested in developing new talent or investing in new talent. That’s when I discovered digital publishing.
The first two submissions I made came back in short order. I spent more time trying to polish the manuscript and develop a better pitch in my query letter. It paid off. The fourth one I queried was interested. After a few emails back and forth they requested my manuscript. Then asked to publish it.
At this moment we haven’t begun the edit but it’s imminent. They may even be interest in one of my other manuscripts. It’s like a love affair. When we are in love we can’t believe someone loves us as we are. We can’t wait to see what a lifetime together will bring. When we are in each other’ s company we feel at home. As a writer I have longed for a home for my work. A place where it is accepted, praised and loved. Maybe now I can prove I’m worthy, to others who believed in me, but mostly to myself. It would be wonderful if that ugly little girl could feel like she was really good at something after all.