by Sheila Connolly
Another year. How did that happen?
Over the holidays I struggled to send out a holiday letter to my oldest (high school, college) friends and my scattered relatives (and it was late, as always). For most of them this is the only time they hear from me, unless they’re following me on Facebook, which is most cases is unlikely. So each year I summarize what I and my family have done over the past year. My husband writes his own, to his own list, so I get to spend most of the letter talking about me.
This year I realized I had electronic files for these annual letters dating back to 1996, so I re-read them all. What I had not realized was that I had documented the whole step-by-step process of starting to write, finishing a book, submitting, finding an agent, dumping that agent, finding a better agent, and finally selling a book. And a series, and another, and another.
While I started (tentatively) writing in 2001, I didn’t mention it publicly until 2004. Here’s what I wrote then:
I have a confession to make: for the last three years I’ve been writing novels – romantic suspense, cozy mystery, chick-lit, even a paranormal. I figured I’d better give it a shot while I had the chance. I’ve completed eight books, and there are three more in progress. Last year I found an agent, and he is circulating three of them (soon to be four) to editors. It’s a slow process, but I have faith that one or more will land in the hands of a sympathetic reader, and I’ll be off to the races as a published author. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Ten years ago. That “eight books”? Some of them are still on a shelf (and may stay there). Some of them I mined for plots or characters who ended up in a different book—I hate to waste anything. Some of them I cleaned up and released myself. That first agent is history, but I didn’t sign with my next until 2006. I didn’t see a book with my name on it in a bookstore until 2008.
It’s been a long and sometimes bumpy road to where I am today, but I know how lucky I am. I’ve met wonderful people along the way. I’ve learned that being persistent (okay, stubborn) can pay off if you wait long enough. I’ve learned that there’s always something new to learn from other writers, and it pays to listen. I’ve seen changes in the publishing industry that no one expected.
I am grateful to have the chance to be a writer, which I love, and that other people want to read what I write. I don’t plan to stop as long as I can still put words on a page—and as long as people still want to read my books.
Yes, there’s another book coming: An Early Wake, the third in the County Cork Mysteries. A book set in this pub, in this small town, was one of the first I ever finished, but I never let it go. It took a few tries, but I finally found the right story for it, that my publisher liked. And here we are!
As usual I’m looking forward to this new book in the County Cork series–and I love the cover art!
It’s hard to find a bad picture of Ireland, particularly since they discovered colored paints. Hope you enjoy the book, Reine!
I can’t wait to read the new one, too. And how fascinating that you have this history in your holiday letters, Sheila.
While I managed to save them all (in one place! Where I could find them!) I usually only check the one from the year before, to find out where I left off. I had never thought of them as a history.
A funny twist: one of those long-ago college friends, with whom I first went to Europe, back when it really was $10 a day, sent her own belated holiday letter yesterday–and announced she has started writing. My immediate reaction was “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I can’t wait to write back.
Love this series and am waiting impatiently for #3. 🙂
I’m so glad, Gram. This one is special because the story (without the murder) kind of fell into my lap a couple of years ago when I was visiting the pub that inspired the series. I had to write it.
My publishing journey is also recorded in Christmas letters, Sheila. I’m looking forward to your An Early Wake!
I love receiving holiday letters but have never written one. I wonder what I would have said about our family over the years? Yikes! That’s a scary thought. How interesting for you to go back and review. re: the publishing journey, to quote a favorite movie–“Never give up, never surrender.”
Good luck with #3. Can’t wait to read.
Ramona, I guilt myself into doing it–after all, that’s all these people ever hear about me. I know–they’re a butt for a lot of jokes, along the lines of “Little Joey is taking a well-deserved vacation this year [he’s in jail].” I have to say I’ve gotten a few that left me gasping (including one from an eighty-something aunt in a retirement community)–where do they find the time to do all this stuff? Not to mention the energy? I’m awed.
Fantastic news. Great to hear of your journey. Gives inspiration to us all, which is perfect for this kind of chilly January day.
And we, your dedicated readers, fans, and bloggers are so glad you found your voice. I love your books, but I love the Irish series the most. I am looking forward to getting my hands on
“An Early Wake” and will be contacting you (of course) for the bookplate to go with it once I own a copy.
Thanks, noradrienne–I’m happy to sign bookplates. I do so want to get Ireland right, which of course means a lot of research trips! But it continues to amaze me. Glad you’re enjoying the series.
It’s such a fun read, and is the first book that my partner grabs when they come out… even before your other titles.
I’m so glad you kept at your writing since it has paid off for you in big ways. And congrats a month early on the new book. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about it as the days get closer.
Sheila–by some weird coincidence, I also started writing Christmas letters in 1996. (It must have been in the air that year.) Since I always include a paragraph on Bill’s family and one on my family, they include a lovely record of births, graduations and weddings. Not to mention the doings of our own children and now grandchild.
I do feel a little silly writing mine in the age of social media, but I can only go by the criteria that I love receiving them and therefore others must as well.
Amen. There are still a few of us dinosaurs around who like paper, and pictures, and like to look at them all at once without scrolling. And I save those few I receive each year (they don’t take up much space!), so I can trace what my friends and scattered family have done over the years as well.
LOVE this posting and reading how, without intending to, you documented your writing history in holiday letters, Sheila. Thank goodness you were so stubborn! Looking forward to Early Wake.
Sheila, I will never forget being at a SinCNE meeting when you announced your first series, and how thrilled I was, aspiring to follow in your footsteps. And now, 7 years later, I will. Dreams do come true. And thanks for being such a cheerful trailblazer.
Sheila, what a cool post – and what a great story! So inspired by all you’ve accomplished.
I love, love, love this. Thanks for sharing your journey and for being so inspirational!
Sheila is an inspiration to many of us!
Sheila, you are exactly the kind of writer I admire the most – you persevered and it paid off. It was great meeting you at B’con. xo
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