Thursday, March 31, 2011

Launch Day for Jessica McCann

Hold On for the Ride (or How to Write a Novel)

by Jessica McCann

Writing your first novel is like a walk in the park. Really, you say, it’s that easy? Before you rush to judgment, allow me to share a story about one particular walk in the park with my dogs.

My rescue pup, a super-loveable German Sheppard mix, has some “issues” around other dogs when she’s on leash. Maybe she's protective of me. Maybe it's a doggy dominance thing. But a few years ago, during a hike in one of our many Phoenix desert preserves, we happened to cross paths with a rambunctious golden retriever and its owner. Both dogs pulled at their leashes, lunging toward one another with noisy growls and flying saliva. It was unclear if they wanted to play or fight, but we weren’t about to risk finding out.

As I struggled to gain control of my unruly pup, I stumbled over a large rock in the trail and went sprawling into the dirt. She continued to pull at her leash, and I continued to hold on. She dragged me about four or five feet, my legs flailing behind me, through the rocks and desert grit. The retriever finally passed us, its owner shouting horrified apologies back over his shoulder, and my dog finally eased up. I took a deep breath and pulled myself to my feet. My knees were shaking. My shins were bloodied. My husband came rushing to me, apologizing that he had been unable to assist, since he had our other large dog on a leash and needed to stay out of the fray.

“Well, that was embarrassing,” I finally managed to say, looking around for witnesses, my voice breaking, tears welling in my eyes.

“No,” my husband said with a huge grin. “That was awesome! I’m so proud of you. You held on.”

Had I let go, we might have had a dog fight on our hands. Had I let go, our girl might have run away into the desert. Rattle snakes, dehydration and the busy highway were just a few of the dangers she would have faced. I had no choice but to hold on.

Writing a novel is like THAT walk in the park. Or, at least, it was for me. I had to risk a little embarrassment, risk getting a little bloodied, to get the job done. I had a story I desperately wanted to share, and so I had to hold on.

We’ve been through a lot of dog training classes since that fateful day on the desert trail. But my girl can still be unruly at times. Sure, we could have taken her to back to the rescue shelter, given up on her in favor of an “easier” dog, one more manageable. But she’s part of the family. When she drops her tattered sock-toy in my lap and patiently waits for me to throw it -- her helicopter tail whirling, her big brown eyes dancing -- I can’t imagine the heartache I’d feel if we had given up on her.

I’ve been through a lot "training" myself since I started writing my first novel, despite my previous experience and success writing nonfiction. Multiples drafts, critiques, revisions, queries and rejections were part of the long process leading to a polished manuscript and a publishing contract.

My debut novel, ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF FREE, was inspired by actual events. It tells the story of Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color in 1830s America whose perfect life was shattered when she was kidnapped and forced into slavery. It was a challenging, emotional, sometimes painful story to research and write. Sure, I could have put it in a drawer, given it up in favor of something easier to write. But the gratification of telling Margaret's story in a way that might touch or inspire those who read the book has made all the hard work worthwhile. When the UPS truck pulls up to my house with a box full of books -- fresh from the printer, with crisp pages and ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF FREE emblazoned on the glossy cover -- I can’t imagine the heartache I’d feel if I had given up my quest to tell Margaret’s story.

Whether you dream of writing a novel or of some other goal, my advice is to go for a walk in the park and hold on for the ride. Life is only half-lived if you haven’t bloodied your knees at least a couple times.

***
Happy Launch Day, Jessica! 

If you're interested in purchasing Jessica's beautiful novel here are some helpful links: 

Amazon 

Barnes & Noble 

NOOKbook


19 comments:

Lisa Tawn Bergren said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing it. And with that perspective, I do believe you are ready for the wild walk yet to come...that of the Published Author. Hang on!

Lisa Tawn Bergren said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing it. And with that perspective, I do believe you are ready for the wild walk yet to come...that of the Published Author. Hang on!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Congratulations Jessica!!! XOX

melissa Crytzer Fry said...

Congratulations, Jessica. YOU DID IT. Wahoooo! I remember all those years ago when fiction writing was a question in your mind (Can I do it? Should I try it?). Well, you've answered that question, dear! Yes! Yes! Yes! You deserve this fabulous day. It's all yours, so enjoy it, relish it, remember it. All Different Kinds of Free is breathtaking, heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. I'm sure your readers are going to love it, just as I do. You're simply the best! Looking forward to the next.

Becca said...

I love these kinds of stories - they give me hope and inspire me to take my dogs for a walk (literally and figuratively!)

Congratulations Rebecca and Jessica :) Can't wait to read both of your novels!

Lisa said...

Jessica, I love your walk in the park analogy, especially the supportive words from your husband: "“No...That was awesome! I’m so proud of you. You held on.” He's a keeper. :)

Congratulations!! All Different Kinds of Free is definitely on my to read list.

Jessica said...

Thanks for all the kinds words everyone. It really means a lot. And a BIG thank you to Rebecca for allowing me to celebrate my release day on your blog! I feel so honored to be part of such a supportive writing community.

Marion Roach Smith said...

It is always a joy to discover a site that celebrates writers. So glad, Jessica, that you risked getting bloodied, and got the job done. Write on, sister.

Hope Clark said...

Big congratulations, Jessica. I know you are on cloud nine, and while my cloud might not be as high as yours, I'm up there with you. The color is beautiful, and I imagine the content is too from the contents of this blog.

Fly high, girl.

Hope Clark
www.fundsforwriters.com

Hallie said...

LOVE this Jessica! Your husband's reaction was great: "That was awesome! I'm so proud of you. You held on."

I'm so happy for you and can't wait to see what else lies ahead on your path.

We are ALL so proud of you!!

XO

Jessica said...

Hi Marion, Hope and Hallie. Glad you enjoyed the post. Gotta love my crazy doggies (and my hubby). Thanks for the kind words about my novel. And, Hope, I can't wait to read your forthcoming mystery novel. So excited for you, too!

Stephanie Faris said...

This is so beautifully written. I'm always inspired by other authors' stories of their struggle to publication. It feels like I've been writing forever but I think the difference between someone who eventually gets published and someone who gives up before it happens is that for those of us who stick it out, we'd probably write all our lives even if we knew we'd never be published. We love to write...publication is just the icing on the cake. (Although icing is really, really good!)

Congrats on your launch. I'm off to Amazon to track down your book. (BTW, I'm also repped by Natalie, so I cheered your victory along with all our other "agent sisters!")

Lynn(e) said...

this is an awesome story...i can definitly (sp?) relate to the unruly dog.

Jessica said...

Hi Stephanie, you're so right about how important it is to just keeping writing and sticking it out. Publication is truly the icing, but the cake is what helps sustain us in life (at least cake is typically what sustains ME. Ha.) And I'm sure you'll be enjoying your icing one day soon. Natalie is a wonderful agent! I'm looking forward to the day when we get to trumpet the news of your book contract. :)

Lynn(e), glad you liked the story. Maybe I need to write another about my other unruly dog (yes, I have two of them). They keep our lives interesting, don't they? Thanks for stopping by Rebecca's blog and for sharing your comment.

carla said...

Congrats on your launch!
And good for you on not giving up on your dog! so many people do....

artistsroad said...

Fantastic analogy, Jessica, indicative of a creative writer.

I just finished your novel yesterday and quite enjoyed it. I found myself identifying closely with a protagonist whose life bears no resemblance to mine, not an easy task for an author to pull off. You had other challenges -- historical setting and dialogue, the need to shift POV, mixing a legal tale with a personal one -- and you pulled it off.

Thanks for a great read.

Patrick

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Thanks, Carla. I appreciate the support, on both counts. One of my biggest peeves is people who treat their pets as somehow disposable.

Patrick, thanks for investing the time to read my book and for your amazing comments about it. I love your blog and respect your creative talent. So I'm thrilled to know you enjoyed my book. It means so much to me.

Maria Papadopoulou said...

This is so inspiring, I feel I can cry. Will definitely take a look!

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."