Jenny Milchman is a suspense novelist from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Adirondack Mysteries II, and in an e-published volume called Lunch Reads. Jenny is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and the chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Her first novel, Cover of Snow, is published by Ballantine. Learn more about Jenny at her website and blog. -- AP
Mr. Sandman, Bring Me Your…
In a few weeks, I am going to get up in front of a roomful of people and ask them to tell me their hopes and dreams.
But let me back up a little.
In a few weeks my debut novel, Cover of Snow, is going to be published. This was a dream thirteen years in the making for me—and that’s if you count from when I first signed with an agent. If you count from when it first crossed my mind to try and get published, it’s more like fifteen years. And if you count from the time I first knew I wanted to be a writer…well, then you’d know about how old I am.
One of my release parties is taking place at a bookstore that has seen the likes of Caroline Kennedy and Jane Seymour. I can’t compete with that—Caroline Kennedy had between 700 and 800 attendees—and I probably don’t have anything as interesting to say.
But I do know something about sticking to a dream. Mine took me through a lot of low points—long, lonely drives and I’m-giving-up moments. And when I started inviting people to my launch party, I realized that they probably had some experience with dreaming, too. We all do. Writers, parents, single people seeking soul mates—all of us know what it’s like to want something very badly and not be sure when, or if, we’re going to get it.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear a whole collection of hopes and dreams? Mightn’t saying them out loud make them just a little bit more real? A dream shared is a dream one step closer to being realized.
I envision a stream of people coming up to the microphone at the front of the bookstore and giving voice to whatever goal or aim has been living inside them. The poet Langston Hughes asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”
I know what helped me hang in there for thirteen+ years, and I offer these tips in case you might be trying to keep going towards something right now.
- Seek out support. Whether that comes from family, friends, church or temple or mosque communities, or online groups and forums, it’s necessary to have someone in your corner to cheer you on and offer advice when the going gets rough. (If your support person is a good cook, that’s all the better.)
- Concretize what you’re going for. Write it down, make a collage, record your own voice describing it. If your goal is to learn a craft, visit a foreign country, or go back to college, find something that represents that goal. Maybe a skein of yarn. Or a flag. A brochure. Let there be something physical you can pick up to remind yourself that one day this will be real. In my case, every book on my shelf was an image of what I wanted my manuscript to become.
- Have a method to stamp out self-doubt. Because you’re going to—doubt, that is. And you’ll encounter the haters. I remember an old friend wondering aloud how long I intended to “keep at this.” Keep at what? My dream? The answer has to be forever, but we don’t always feel entitled to say so. Practice your response—“As long as I have to,” “Until I succeed,”—and have a way to combat depression when you start to feel like It’s Never Going to Happen. Go for a drive, take a shower, or eat some chocolate. Do all three. Pick up that concrete symbol you fashioned (see above.) Most of all, just know that doubt is par for the course, part of going for a dream, and until you give up, you haven’t failed. You just haven’t succeeded YET.
Oh, and if you’d like to, please join us either physically or in spirit on January 17th when hopes and dreams will be shared, and come that much closer to coming true.
Cover of Snow
Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide.
The first few hours following Nora’s devastating discovery pass for her in a blur of numbness and disbelief. Then, a disturbing awareness slowly settles in: Brendan left no note and gave no indication that he was contemplating taking his own life. Why would a rock-solid police officer with unwavering affection for his wife, job, and quaint hometown suddenly choose to end it all? Having spent a lifetime avoiding hard truths, Nora must now start facing them.
Unraveling her late husband’s final days, Nora searches for an explanation—but finds a bewildering resistance from Brendan’s best friend and partner, his fellow police officers, and his brittle mother. It quickly becomes clear to Nora that she is asking questions no one wants to answer. For beneath the soft cover of snow lies a powerful conspiracy that will stop at nothing to keep its presence unknown . . . and its darkest secrets hidden.
Best wishes to you on your extensive tour and success with Cover of Snow. Sounds fascinating.
Liz, thank you for coming by this morning! I appreciate hearing your thoughts--it's the preoccupation of my days these days, and it's nice to hear it's of interest to others.
My host, Lois, is in warmer climes as we speak/type, but I wanted to offer a big thanks for having me to her blog!
Hi Jenny, I love your advice on stamping out self-doubt. It seem to come in waves when I least expect it, but it's never easy to deal with. When it happens, I make sure I surround myself with supportive writers and friends. Once a long time ago, after my first book was released, I told a friend I was working on book number two. Her response was that if my first book didn't hit the bestseller list, my second book would never be published. Although I'm still dreaming of that bestseller list, books number six and seven came out last year. I know I've said this many times, but you're a true inspiration. Cover of Snow is in my suitcase. I'm savoring your book for my upcoming trip. Best alway. Kathleen
Kathleen, I am so glad you didn't listen to that "friend" because we are all better off with books one through seven in the world!! It's amazing, what people can say that undermine our writing soul, even when they don't mean to.
Thank you for packing Snow in your suitcase :) That means a lot to me.
I know it's been a long road and I'm so happy that you're seeing the end! Congratulations!
Hi Jenny. This was such an inspirational post. And since I'm decades older than you, I can truly say, you are never too old to follow your dreams. I'm on book three of my series and those dreams keep me feeling young! I went to a workshop years ago and several NYT best-selling authors confided that they still constantly worry that their writing isn't up to par. That made me realize it's natural to doubt the quality of your work, but with support from on-line and at-home friends, you can realize those dreams.
I'm sure glad you kept going because I give 6 stars to COVER OF SNOW! WOW!
Thanks, Michele! And thanks, Cindy. I agree--we always doubt and question. Even if all the reviews are 6 stars :) You are a great supporter.
I really enjoyed your post. I've been writing for 12 1/2 yrs now, and I always keep an eye out for the "long road to publication" stories. Congratulations on sticking with it! That's a very intriguing setup for a novel, and they gave you a great cover.
Hope you get tons of new friends at your reading.
Hi Greta, I appreciate hearing your thoughts! Hang in there. You have put your time in, and I'm hoping something will break for you one of these days. Please feel free to email, even if you just need to vent or want to run anything by me!
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