Getting Published One Op-Ed at a Time

I had the fire a few years ago as well as the time. I worked feverishly to write my first novel, an ambitious 100,000-word work based on some strange letters I found in an attic. I covered it all—scandal, mystery, love, loss—the makings of a real blockbuster, or so I thought.

Then came the editing, complimentary friend/writer readings, re-edits, re-reads, re-re-edits. I thought I had Waking Sleeping Dogs honed to perfection. I crashed a mystery conference in Nashville and pitched to 3 agents, scoring 3 readings. I dreamed of how I would spend my advance money. I thought, This is pretty easy!

All in all, I probably had a dozen or so rejections before getting discouraged. My husband, and other writers who were fans, encouraged me to start the second novel. I was stymied. I lost my mojo.

I worked on my blog, posting thoughtful articles on my life, my farm, my dogs, and gradually, politics. Ah politics! That subject that friends frowned upon at parties. The one area that authors discouraged me from discussing on SheWrites. (So I left.) I thought, Where are the dynamic people in the world who care to debate the issues of the day, as Thomas Jefferson so obligated American citizens?

Then I wrote an opinion editorial and sent it to the local newspaper. It seemed that that paper catered to the far Christian right wing of the GOP, and any other idea scarcely appeared. That opinion piece garnered a full page of responses, both for and against. Even the publisher of the paper weighed in, speculating as to my background since we shared the name last name.

My next op-ed didn’t spark as much outrage and praise, but it did get some interest, prompting the editor to persuade the publisher to have me publish a monthly piece. It is not named yet; we are tossing around an idea from my blog. I like A View from My Front Porch (since I live on a farm and write from my front porch); my editor likes A View from the Left Side of my Front Porch. She has even offered me occasional space in the Sunday Lifestyles section.

I have not given up on my book, but I know in this day and time, having a platform, any platform, is necessary to catching the eye of agents much less publishers. So, week by week, I am getting published. Oh, I am not famous and may never be, but I can guarantee that people in this county are hearing my name, debating my points of view, loving me, or hating me. At best, I am respected as an intellectual mind. I hope my readers also appreciate my careful approach to my subjects with rhetoric and disparaging tones avoided. My next goal is to query syndicates and after that I will creep back into the deep, dark abyss that is a new author’s path into the book publishing world.

For now, I smile as I imagine myself as Steve Martin’s Navin R. Johnson character in The Jerk:

Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!

Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.

Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 – Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity – your name in print – that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.

[the Sniper points to Navin’s name in the phone book]

Sniper: Johnson, Navin R… sounds like a typical bastard.

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