In 2009 I went through an existential crisis. My son was 18 months old, I had an adjunct teaching job, and I was driving myself nuts trying to care for him all day while teaching freshman Comp classes at night. If I’d had a full-time teaching job (including that much fuller paycheck), I’d probably have stuck it out, but my course load had dwindled to one class per semester so I was making a pittance. To me, this situation spelled F-A-I-L-U-R-E.
Up until that point in my life, I’d been the classic overachiever and did well in school, so that’s probably why I chose teaching as a profession in the first place. One hard lesson I learned during this dark-night-of-the-soul period is that life isn’t completely under our control. No matter how perfectly you lay the ground work, you can’t force things to turn out the way you expected.
Since my teaching career wasn’t taking off, I decided to be a stay-at-home-mom. I also decided to pursue a huge bucket list item: write a novel. After all, I’d been a college writing instructor and never seemed to have the time to do my own writing.
Within a year, I’d produced my first version of my novel, Voodoo Butterfly, and gotten a full manuscript request by an agent working in New York City. Needless to say, I was absolutely over the moon. But he didn’t pick it up.
So I joined a critique group, The Lit Ladies, and over the next few years about a dozen agents and editors requested full or partial manuscripts. None were quite the right fit. Doubt crept into my mind and I thought many times about just giving up. And I wrote this…
My cells tried to run the old programming of uncertainty, hopelessness, and inadequacy, resisting the spiritual transformation I’d just undergone. Doubt crawled inside of me like thousands of tiny spiders.
These lines from Voodoo Butterfly describe how my main character, Sophie, feels as she tries to adjust to her new life as the owner of a New Orleans voodoo shop. Sophie, a native Missourian, knows nothing about voodoo or her strange surroundings in the crazy city of NOLA. Over the course of the novel, facing down inner demons becomes Sophie’s specialty and I used her character to help face down the monsters of doubt and despair in my own life.
Becoming a writer was my big picture so, rather than give up on that dream, my stubborn German ancestry kicked in and I kept on. In 2013, I entered a few Romance Writers of America chapter contests and–hallelujah!–Voodoo Butterfly finaled in the NW Houston Lone Star Contest. My publisher and editor, Debby Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing, was one of the judges and she offered me a contract.
Since the release of the book in October of 2014, Voodoo Butterfly has had steady sales and lots of awesome reviews on Amazon. One day I’d like to get back in the classroom, but for right now I focus on the two life areas that make my soul happy: family life and writing.
I have two bits of advice for anyone who wants to pursue a writing career.
1. Write every day. I commit to 15 minutes which normally turns into about an hour or two.
2. Follow your bliss. If it’s not writing, that’s okay. Whatever it is, when things get hard, do as Dori says and, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!”