This is my favourite cup.
Or it was.
Until last week when it slipped, hit the kitchen tiles and splintered all over the place.
I'll admit, I almost cried.
Why? Because this wasn't any old mug. It was my 2023 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference cup. It was big, blue and full of memories with every sip.
And now, it's broken.
The cup had been sort of symbolic for me. It reminded me of the new friends I'd made, and of God's provision and protection on my trip to the USA last year. It motivated me to keep writing and prompted me to reach out of my comfort zone to try new things. When you are a writer, such reminders are useful. Especially when a lot of the writing life can feel like cracks and broken dreams.
I sometimes sit back and look at this thing called the book industry and wonder how on earth it survives! For one of my projects (the Ella Shine Pet Sitters books) my collaborator and I have made the difficult decision to do our own distribution, simply because we cannot afford the margin the formal distribution channels were asking for. We have a terrific series, but struggle to get the books to the readers.
Gathering reviews for books (whether it's a new title or a backlist) can feel impossible. Writers know reviews are vital for a books' success, but there isn't a magic button to make readers review your book. If you Google my books on Amazon, and judged them by the number of reviews they've received, you may wonder if this 'Penny Reeve' lady (or 'Penny Jaye' or 'Ella Shine', since I also write under those) writes anything worth reading.
Publishers ask writers to build an authentic 'platform', agents turn authors away who don't have one, authors like me struggle to get their message out without changing their personality or focus. One of the manuscripts I've written keeps getting knocked back, not because it's no good, but because not enough people know about me. It's almost like the longer I've been writing, the harder it becomes (and this from someone who's had more than 20 books published by traditional publishers).
So... what's the answer?
What's a writer do when the writing dreams seem to slip, like my favourite cup, to the tiles and splinter?
Giving up might be one option. And, I'll admit it has at times seemed tempting.
But then I remember the superglue of this writing game: that I love it, that I've got things to say, that there are young people and families who need the kind of books I write, and I've been given such opportunities by God to do this small but wonderful work.
Remembering this, holds the shards of my writing life together.
I have no grandiose expectations anymore. I have tried many things, but still have no idea how to build authentic followers, gather more reviews or guarantee to a publisher that my book will sell. My experience (from 22 years of writing for publication) has been more about stubborn hope and God using my words in ways I'll likely never even hear about. But I'm clinging to the superglue.
And as for my favourite cup? Well, my son suggested we plant a succulent in it, and that's not a bad idea - given it won't be much use for hot chocolate anymore!
A writers cup overflowing with life.
I like that.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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