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Friday, January 12, 2018

About the Joy of Writing by Pat Stoltey

Our special guest blogger today is author Patricia Stoltey:


Indulging in the writing life is like riding a roller coaster. A writer is like a yo-yo, up one second and down the next. Joyful, then depressed, the writer still keeps going back for more.
What is this writing thing that causes so much pain?

It’s a crazy existence I alternately love and hate, focus on enthusiastically for weeks, then delete pages of text and clean the bathrooms.

My experience has been like this:
When in my 30s and working fulltime, with home demands of husband and children, I took time off from those home demands to attend a weekend writing workshop at a local college.  My short story had gotten me into the workshop, but the critiques were brutal. The joy I’d felt writing short stories and poetry turned into humiliation. I didn’t show my work to anyone again for years.
In my 40s, my brother and I collaborated on my first novel, an action-adventure tale based on his years in the transportation industry. I was writing in France and he was sending me anecdotes and ideas from the U.S. The joy of writing returned, wrapped in a dreamy and romantic environment. Who wouldn’t feel joy when writing in the south of France? When the book was finished, I assigned the task of queries to my brother while I started another novel. At Christmas, back in the U.S., my brother’s gaily wrapped gift to me was a large coffee can filled with the rejection letters to all his queries. My joy in writing crashed. I quit again. That second novel I started (before the crash) still sits on my bookcase shelf in case I ever decide I can look at it again without feeling that horrid disappointment.

In my early 60s, I took a novel writing class to see if I could write a mystery. The great instructor and the enthusiastic students got me excited again. I completed the mystery and pitched it to an agent at a writers’ conference. The agent was snarky and suffering from allergies and sent me away, red-faced and close to tears.
I licked my wounds, wrote a couple of short stories because I couldn’t seem to stay away from my computer, and then received one of those “it’s really good and we almost wanted it” rejections. A tiny bit encouraged, I turned the short story into the first draft of a novel. Then I took that first mystery back to a critique workshop at a conference…and found a publisher.

The joy of writing was back, at least for a while. Since then, there have been the ups with book releases and downs associated with poor sales, my publisher dropping its mystery line, delays in publication, and other ego-destroying events.

Often writing seems like a stupid way to spend my time.
But then I received the hardcover copies of my fourth published novel. It’s the one based on that “it’s really good and we almost wanted it” short story. The joy of writing is back, this time wrapped in a cozy afghan and purple hand warmers to ward off the Colorado cold.
How long will the joy last this time?
That’s a very good question.


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017).

Pat lives in
Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.

Links:
Podcast at RMFW website:  http://rmfw.org/rocky-mountain-writer-108/
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Your questions and comments most welcome!

14 comments:

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for inviting me back to the Author Expressions blog, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Pat,

The pleasure is all mine. You're a great guest. I think your discussion is very honest and expresses how so many of us who write feel. It's a difficult road to follow full of frustration and rejection. We do it because we truly love to write and can't live without it. Congrats on the success of the new novel which you so richly deserve.

Mary Gillgannon said...

I'm sincerely hope the joy stays with you. My own writing adventure is much similar, but with much greater ups and downs. I sold my first novel, got featured in a new line and a three-book contract, then saw my Cinderella story dwindle to nothing over the next ten years. The last editor with my first publisher rejected my proposal by saying "our readers don't want books like yours". But I've persisted. And you will to, even if the joy goes away again. Cheers!

Susan Oleksiw said...

Thank you for your honest story, Pat. This writing business isn't easy for anyone, and when we find ourselves getting depressed over rejections, it's good to remember that we're not the only ones going through this. Keep the joy, keep writing, and ignore the nay-sayers.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I spend a lot of time telling younger writers to stick with it, be persistent, be patient, so it's only fair to explain the journey is filled with quicksand pits and slippery slopes. And still we write...

Thanks, Jacqueline. Finding a publisher for WCD was a high point for me. I'm still riding on that particular kind of euphoria where we pick up our new book and hug it. :D

Hi Mary -- by now, I'm assuming the joy will always come back until I'm too old to care about it. Your story always reminds me that tough times will come, but good times are still out there if we keep reaching.

Susan, there's a lot to gain from being part of a tribe, whether a big organization or a small group like our Five Stars. When we can admit we've hit a rough patch, we can find lots of support and encouragement from those who've persevered.

Colleen Story said...

Love this, Pat! It's so representative of the typical writer's story it seems. I could only imagine the nicely wrapped rejections! Ugh! So glad you hung in there. :O)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for stopping by, Colleen! Yes, that coffee tin full of old-fashioned form rejection letters was tough to swallow. I can laugh about it now...if I don't think too hard about how it felt at the time.

Linda Osmundson said...

Love this post, Pat. Makes me realize I'm not the only one who could paper the office wall with rejections. But perseverance pays as WCD proves. Hope you enter it into the Colorado Book Award. Much deserving of an award.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Linda -- I did enter. It's always worth a try, right?

Rhonda Blackhurst said...

Thanks for posting this, Pat. As writers, it's nice to know we're not alone with the ups and downs. It was great seeing you at the last NCW Conference as well! Here's to many more "ups."

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Rhonda! Hope to see you at NCW again this year. I'm looking forward to more "ups" as well, for all of us!

Sharon Ervin said...

Patricia, your story is familiar. I have boxes of rejections. When fledgling writers ask, I say, "If you CAN quit, do. If you can't, obviously you have "a gift.". Exercise it. For me, it was seventeen (17) years from the time I completed my first novel––378 pages of brilliant prose––until my eighth manuscript sold. I admired Oklahoma authors Marilyn Harris and Carolyn Hart. When I wrote a pitiful letter to Carolyn, whining, she wrote back by return mail. The letter begins, "Marilyn Harris had 278 rejections on eight books before she sold her first." Carolyn's experience was similar. Her letter was kind, but the gist of it was, "Keep slogging, you sissy. Writing novels is not for quitters." Also, Husband Bill kept prodding me. Why? I asked. "Because when you're writing, you're happy and I like you happy." Novel #14 will be released this spring. All have been published by print/royalty houses. I do not want to self publish. I want/need the editing and validation of a publisher willing to invest in my books. I can't quit, anyway. Might as well enjoy the ride.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Thank you for the honest portrait of a writer's life. Writers definitely live on a roller coaster. The highs are wonderful. The lows, tearful. It's the in between that we find ourselves discovering new characters and stories and can't keep away from the page. Bless you, all in your writing journey. "We" aren't alone and this is a good place to find that community and commiseration.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Sharon, I love Carolyn Hart's response to you (and your paraphrasing...I might just have to quote you in another blog post one of these days).

You've done really well for a writer sticking to the tradition publishing path. Like you, I value that editorial component so much that I hesitate to self-publish, unless I loosen my tightwad grip on dollars and pay a real editor to work with me. I am enjoying the ride...most of the time. :D

Hi Bonnie -- thanks for stopping by. It's only fair to share the whole experience with other writers. The beginners need to know what might be ahead and the old-timers need to know they're not alone. It's not all wine and roses, but the wine and roses days are awesome.