It was 2004. While driving to meet my critique group, I happened to catch an interview with Adrienne Young, a folksinger just starting out. She talked about her first album, inspired by some advice she’d gotten while struggling to make it as a musician:
If you want to do this with your life, stay focused and see this through. You’ve got to plow to the end of the row, girl.
That simple phrase – plow to the end of the row – was enough to push Adrienne to continue. It became the title of both her album and lead song.
I can’t quite explain what that interview meant to me, hearing an artist choose to create despite the struggle, to push against fear and all things sensible and make it “to the end of the row.” I’ve carried this image with me for six years now, the plant metaphor standing in for artistic endeavor, the plow the unglamorous slog needed to dig deep and make it to the end.
I recently stopped by NPR.org, wondering if I could find that interview, and there it was, waiting for me. Hearing Adrienne’s words a second time reminded me just how long my row has been, because guess what, friends? I’ve made it to the end. After almost twelve years of writing and hundreds of rejections, I’ve sold my first book.
MAY B. will be published in fall 2011 by Tricycle Press (an imprint of Random House)!
Sometimes I find it funny that impatient ol’ me would choose a profession so bent on forcing me to wait. An almost foolish optimism has kept me working, trusting that the next editor or the next agent or the next story would be the one to launch my career. For years, I’d haunt the mailbox, waiting for something positive to come through. I’d ceremoniously send off manuscripts, chanting, “Don’t come back!” (entertaining postal workers, for sure). I have journals full of “this next editor is a perfect match!” and the like, managing somehow to keep on plowing in midst of little validation from the publishing world.
I’ve made it to the end of a very long, mostly lonely row, one that’s not very straight and loaded with stones. But the soil has gotten better as I’ve worked it, and each little sprout has been stronger than the last. The beauty of all this is I get to start again, take this seedling and transplant it, working alongside others who will nurture it into something better than I could ever create alone.
Thank you, friends, who have encouraged me along the way!