Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On success, disappointment, and star-nosed moles

Many moons ago when I was a young and innocent pup, I thought a book deal would mean the end of writing-related disappointments.

My fantasy may have also included confetti and foot rubs from George Clooney, and it’s possible I cleared storage space in my garage for fan mail.

Fast forward a decade or so, I’ve learned some lessons along the way (not the least of which is that you should buy D-batteries in bulk before hosting a Pure Romance party, but I digress).

My road to publication was a bumpy one, and I’d be lying if I claimed everything’s been smooth sailing since then. Some setbacks I can’t really discuss publicly, but others I can share (albeit, with a touch of shame – an unfamiliar emotion for me, but I digress again).

The RITA awards are the Romance Writers of America equivalent of the Oscars. My publisher sent Making Waves for consideration, and though I tried not to think about it, I wanted urgently, desperately to be a finalist. I mentioned it to almost no one, and avoided watching the calendar for the date they pledged to notify contestants.

The date was Monday. Sadly, my name didn’t appear on the list of finalists.

It didn’t crush me. It didn’t ruin my day. It didn’t send me weeping into my closet where I huddled in the dark eating Girl Scout cookies and rocking back and forth humming “I’m a Little Teapot.”

Still, I’ll confess I felt stung for an instant.

Then I got mad at myself for feeling stung, because AREYOUKIDDINGMEBITCH?

Once I stopped slamming my head on my desk, I tallied my good fortune. I have my health. I have amazing friends and family, and the best agent on the planet. I have an incredible gentleman friend who makes me smile for reasons that don’t all involve being naked. I’ve published three books to embarrassingly positive reviews, including a nomination for “Contemporary Romance of the Year” from the RT Book Reviews 2011 Reviewers Choice Awards.

I’m damn lucky, and I know it.

But does that mean I’m not allowed to feel tinges of disappointment over setbacks? I’m not sure.

A critique partner once gave me a terrific piece of advice:

Someone else’s success does not detract from yours.

That’s absolutely correct, and something I remind myself whenever the green-eyed monster appears.

And yet…and yet…sometimes, that’s not entirely true.

There can only be a limited number of RITA finalists, and if every single contender in my category was eaten by a star-nosed mole, I would be the winner. The fact that my competitors all survived mole attacks means they emerged victorious and I….well, I didn’t get eaten by a mole. That’s something.

Hello, I'm a star-nosed mole.
Here’s something else: I told you Monday about the friendly Twitter competition my publisher arranged using the #ebookbracket hashtag and a plea for readers to vote which book will be sale-priced for 99-cents in early April.

For the first round, eight of us were paired off by genre. My competitor in the Contemporary category was an amazing author with USA Today bestseller status, two million books in print in more than 20 countries, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals, a Bookseller’s Best win, and five RITA nominations – one of which she nabbed Monday morning.

In other words, she rocks (and I can attest to that personally since I've read and loved her books).

The #ebookbracket challenge from Sourcebooks.
Please keep voting for Making Waves!

But through some bizarre stroke of good fortune, I managed to land more Twitter votes in our publisher’s #ebookbracket challenge. That sent me through to the final four (which ends March 28 at 4 p.m. CST, and you can vote as many times as you want, so please, pretty please, tweet a vote for Making Waves using the hashtag #ebookbracket and my Twitter handle, @tawnafenske…er, I digress again).

While I doubt my competitor would trade my victory for hers, there’s really no point in comparing. I had a flutter of success, and I’m happy about it. Period.

That stands by itself no matter what other successes or failures might come to any of us. For me, it’s important to celebrate my own victories, while graciously tipping my hat to the ones that go to other people.

Do you pay much attention to the successes and failures of others? How does that impact your overall attitude about yourself? Do you think someone is more or less entitled to feel disappointed, depending on the successes he/she has? Please share!

And please, pretty please, tweet your little hearts out in the #ebookbracket challenge (a link to complete rules can be found here). Thanks a ton for your support so far!


Unknown said...

I didn't know that I could vote multiple times!! *scurries back to Twitter*

kel said...

Don't beat yourself up over feeling disappointed. You can't control your emotions, only your reactions. Acknowledge your emotions, give yourself comfort, and then move on.

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Sistah--you are a winner in more ways than I can count. Love you more than a star nosed mole. Will be tweeting. <3

Matthew MacNish said...

I hope I composed my tweet correctly, as I was a little frazzled after you showed the picture of that starfish.

Sarah Allen said...

Aw, I like you :) This made me feel a lot better about my life. I've got two sisters next in line in my family, and one is going on a mission and the other is getting married, pretty major successes especially if you live in Utah, while I'm sitting around waiting for beta readers and job applications and grad school responses and other stuff like that. I have to remember that their lives and decisions and successes don't mean anything about how I'm doing, or how successful I am. We all have our moments, and celebrating them is a fantastic idea :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Rhonda Hopkins said...

Congrats on your successes & good luck with the #ebookbracket challenge! No reason to beat yourself up for feeling disappointment. I's only human to feel that way. You have every right to want something & to feel disappointed you didn't get it. It's when the disappointment turns to bitterness & keeps you from reaching for your dreams that it's a problem. And while I don't know you well, I would bet that's just not how you would roll at anytime.

Linda G. said...

Gawd, that is one ugly mole.

And I would be totally envious of YOUR success if I wasn't one of your CPs. I figure that gives me partial success credit. *grin*

Anna Cowan said...

one of the wedding vows I didn't get around to writing about for the 'Verse was: I will not mistake the success or failure in our lives for the success or failure of our marriage.

I guess you could adapt this to: I will not mistake the success or failure of my career for the success or failure of my life. Or alternately: I will not mistake the success or failure of other authors for a reason to sick a star-nosed mole on them.

And I am ALWAYS jealous of successful writers who are younger than me. It's irrational but tenacious!

Unknown said...

I often have to stop and berate myself when I feel too dark-minded. I've had a damned sheltered life and have few reasons to be sad. But also, I think it's important to let oneself be sad for a while and cry it out (I do it literary). Usually when I'm done with that, I find myself with new strength and resolve.

I always compare myself with others. If I was to compare me with myself, I'd be disappointed. I used to be a much better person in all aspects.