Thursday, June 7, 2012

Good luck, bad luck, and falling trees

Shortly after Believe it or Not hit shelves, I was out with my realtor pawing through strangers' medicine cabinets   critiquing other people's housekeeping skills  touring homes I considered buying. Making conversation, she asked how book sales were going.

"I've been really lucky," I told her. "I've gotten some amazing reviews, and a lot of enthusiasm from booksellers, and my first book was nominated for contemporary romance of the year by RT Book Reviews."

She frowned. "That doesn't sound like luck. That sounds like hard work."

It wasn't the first time I realized my realtor is a whole lot smarter than me.

When new writers ask me the secret to getting published, I give the slightly jaded response you'll hear from many authors who've been at this game awhile – getting published has little to do with talent, and everything to do with perseverance and luck.

I say it because I've seen a lot of amazing writers give up too soon when rejections piled up and confidence fell. I've also seen mediocre writers get published because they hung in there fighting like a moose with a mousetrap on his testicles long after the other kids packed up their toys and went home.

I do believe perseverance and luck are the cornerstones of every successful author's career, but my realtor was right about the hard work. She also got me thinking about how luck is often a matter of perspective.

Monday morning, I  drove six hours to Boise, Idaho for a talk I was hired to give at the library. My visit coincided with the arrival of a freak storm that sent the city into a tizzy. News reports predicted 60-mile-an-hour winds and falling power lines. I had visions of cattle caught in wind-gusts and splattered across the hood of my rental car.

Not surprisingly, people weren't eager to leave the safety of their homes to hear a romance author tell penis jokes. Though the library staff arranged a large, lovely auditorium and several special events to accompany my talk, my audience consisted of six people. One may have been physically dragged there by event organizers, and one was a longtime friend who lives in Boise and offered to chauffeur me around.

The library staff was bummed, and I felt bad for all the hard work and advertising they put into it. Though I enjoyed chatting intimately with my small audience, it was by far the smallest turnout I've had at an author event. At the end of it, we shook our fists at the storm, cursing the fallen limbs and fear-mongering weathermen.

The big hunks of tree that could have
made a mess of my pal's truck.
Bad luck? Perhaps.

After my friend dropped me at my bed and breakfast, he returned home to discover a massive tree limb fell right where he always parks his truck. Had he not been shuttling a directionally-challenged author from wine bar to brewery, he most assuredly would have gotten a smushed vehicle and a delightful afternoon of arguing with insurance companies.

Good luck? Hard to say.

In the end, it's probably a matter of perspective. We can find good luck and bad luck in just about any scenario, depending on how hard we look. And freak storms aside, it's important to remember the degree to which we work like dogs to make our own luck.

What's your most memorable good luck/bad luck encounter? Please share!

I need to check my rental car agreement for the policy on hoof-dents in the hood.


Stephanie said...

Wow! That's really some story!!! I struggle between wondering if life is all just good luck or bad luck or if we directly determine how our lives go. It's nice to say "Oh, yeah, that was all me!" when things are good...but bad stuff...much easier to blame bad luck. I truly believe in working hard and making our dreams happen. But even when you put in every last ounce of effort you have, and things STILL don't happen for you, how do you explain it?? Bad timing??

Patty Blount said...

Well, it's kind of a long story. As you know, SEND (my debut novel) will be released in August. This is NOT my first finished novel. All the others remain under my bed in a blanket of dust. I was indeed ready to give up but then I read one of your blog posts in which you discussed the merits of critique partners. In fact, I even wrote you, asking how to find this mythical creature.

Your advice was to join a group - either online or real. Just as I began looking for groups, the lovely and talented Jeannie Moon sent me a tweet one day, inviting me to attend a local RWA chapter meeting.

I did and LOVED IT. I joined soon after. She hooked me up with a group of teens interested in beta reading and I revised the book accordingly. A few months after that, our local RWA chapter held its annual luncheon (ironically, that event is TOMORROW:) ) where I got to pitch my book baby to several interested editors.

I met Aubrey Poole from Sourcebooks that day. She later offered to publish it! *SQUEALS*

Don't know if it's luck, or timing, or divine intervention. All I know is 61 days, baby!!!!!!

Malin said...

In Sweden, we have a 3 month cease-limit on our apartment leases. So, it was truly a bad luck/good luck situation when just a few days after I realised I didn't want to stay in that city/realised I was stalked that the bathroom sprung a leak and the company offered me an immidiated "lease cease" if I moved out within a week. Without that leak, I would have been stuck for three months in a place where I didn't know anyone and barely dared walked out of the door!

Katt said...

Just last week, a friend who is over 90 years old, gave up his usual tiny table at the front of the little restaurant as he had a couple of people joining him. They sat at the back.... and yes you guessed it. A car plowed through the window and wiped out his usual table.
Luck? either that or the Universe does have a bit of control!

Anonymous said...

You're the hardest working author I "know", Tawna. You deserve every bit of luck you get! :)

Tammy J. Palmer said...

Luck doesn't write manuscripts. Or rewrite them. Or edit them. Or submit them. Over and over again. So when the right story lands on the desk of the right agent/editor, can we really give luck all the credit?

Laina said...

A moose with a mouse trap - what? XD

Rich Amooi said...

First of all, thank you so much for using the words, "moose" and "testicles," in the same sentence. It is quite refreshing to see and fun to visualize.

I kind of had the same experience as your friend. A few years ago, I was watching a video in my living room when I heard my e-mail sounder go off in the office. (back when I had an e-mail sounder) Since I was expecting a message from a client, I turned to go to the office and read the e-mail. After taking a few steps, a giant tree limb from the tree over my house crashed through my roof, exactly where I was standing just a couple of seconds earlier. I would have definitely been killed instantly. I sat on the couch for a few minutes staring at the tree in my living room, and the dust floating in the air around me. It was like a dream. Later, I saw that the e-mail I received was actually spam. Yes, spam saved my life.

By the way, do you have any plans to come to San Jose, California to tell your penis jokes? Maybe we can arrange something with the California Writer's Club. That would be very cool. Have a SUPER weekend!