Guest Blogger: Jennifer Stark w/a Jennifer McGowan

27 May

I’ve been writing for fun and profit since I wrote a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure computer program on the Commodore 64 at age 11.  I began selling $5 love poems in junior high, and have made my living as a writer and branding guru for the past twenty years. I spent the early part of my life in Montana, but grew up in Ohio, and really learned what I was made of in Paris, France. I now live and write in Ohio. MAID OF SECRETS is my first published novel, coming from Simon & Schuster Young Readers in late 2012.

After THE CALL… the first 90 days

If you’re like most writers, you don’t sell your very first draft of your first book. In fact, you may not sell your second or third, either, but you keep working at the process of writing and honing your craft. Even authors I know who became “overnight sensations” with the sale of their first completed manuscript took anywhere from several months to several years to make that sale.

As a result, you have a lot of time on your hand to wonder: what will it be like? How will getting THE CALL change me… my career… my life??

I know I was one of those people. Between managing a successful corporate and then freelance career and the general ministrivias of life, I took the long way around in my fiction process, penning my first romance in late 1999 and finally selling in March, 2011. MAID OF SECRETS, my Elizabethan YA spygirls novel, will be published by Simon & Schuster in late 2012. I don’t even have a website yet for my writing self, it’s all still so new to me.

In fact, just over eleven years of fantasizing about “my future life as an author” has now turned into “my current life as an author” J. And let me tell you, there are a LOT of elements in my current life that I never imagined in my daydreams!

Here are just a few:

You’re Hired! But you can’t Quit! When you sell a book, you are essentially agreeing to work for your fabulous publishing house to complete, revise, polish and deliver your book… and then to promote and help publicize your book. This is a job – and in some cases, a huge job. But quitting the day job isn’t really an option immediately after you sell, even for folks with extraordinary deals (unless they have a couple of extraordinary deals, AND a lifestyle that can make it work).

What does this mean? A couple of things:

1. You have to give yourself permission to work on the writing as if it is your job… because it is. This is hard for workaholics in particular, because all of their other work clients are used to having them solely focused on ‘the day job’.

2. You have to take better care of yourself. (I am currently in the midst of epic fail on this one) That means: getting all the sleep, exercise and good nutrition you need to allow you to work at 100 mph.

3. You have to learn how to say “no” to some of the other things in life – whether that’s friends, new commitments, or randomly fun opportunities… the writing has to be considered a job. It’s not a ‘maybe one day’ venture anymore. It’s real.

The challenges don’t go away… they just become more interesting!

My mom used to say this about raising kids – that as they got older, their problems didn’t magically disappear, they just became more interesting.  That’s definitely the case with post-Call life. I was blessed enough to have multiple agents offer to represent my book, and then multiple houses interested in publishing it. While that sounds like it would be a wonderful experience… it was actually, in both cases, two of the most nerve-wracking weeks of my life.

In addition, there are all sorts of questions to resolve with contracts and pen names and promotional details… and the title of the book itself… and even rights considerations that always seemed like dandelion puffs on the horizon to me in the past, but now matter quite a bit. Wonderful challenges—extraordinary challenges… but challenges I never really even considered as an aspiring author.

And that doesn’t mean all the old challenges go away, either. Lest you think you magically wake up and feel: “wow, I made it, I’m an awesome author and I don’t have to be neurotic anymore”…. Well, hopefully you do feel that way. Because you should. But…I’m not quite there yet. 😉

So, what’s next?

This is perhaps the most interesting bit, and does not apply to everyone. But part of why I chose my agent was her interest in representing my work for the long haul. What that means is: how can I keep my publisher so in love with my books as to want to publish more in the series? (I currently have a two-book deal, but there are five spygirls, each with a story to tell…)  And, what about other books I may want to write? So even while I am working (and fretting over) my first miracle baby… I’m already thinking about the next bundle of joy that’s percolating in the back of my mind. And I suspect that will be the way of it, from this point forward!

And, yes… it’s pretty cool.

Seriously. Starting to make my dreams come true was worth the wait for me—and all of the crazy challenges along the way. As you make your dreams come true as well, I wish you extraordinary fortune!


Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Idaho


11 responses to “Guest Blogger: Jennifer Stark w/a Jennifer McGowan

  1. johannaharness

    May 27, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    Thank you so much for the reminder to take care of ourselves! We’re in this for the long-term and none of us have the stamina for this if we don’t take care.

  2. Meredith Conner

    May 27, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story and blogging with us today, Jennifer! My daughter has discovered the love of reading and these books sound great! Can’t wait to read them with her!

  3. Janis McCurry

    May 27, 2011 at 7:53 AM


    Always great to hear an spirational story of THE CALL and get the added benefit of the “after” part. Thanks for guest blogging at Gem State Writers.

  4. Carley Ash

    May 27, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    What a fantastic blog – very exciting and a little overwhelming. Congratulations.

  5. Jenn

    May 27, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    Hello, and thanks to you guys for welcoming me! I’ve known Janis for a while now and can’t wait to meet you in person at RWA national.

    If you have any questions – from pitching to making decisions on agents to …well, whatever! Please don’t hesitate to ask!

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    May 27, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    Congratulations on the big sale, Jenn. Thanks for sharing your experience. It all sounds so exciting. I will look for you at the GH retreat at nationals 🙂

  7. Jenn

    May 27, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Thanks, Clarissa! It’s funny — I’ve been writing for almost 15 years now (I started out with a fantasy novel, not romance) and yet it seems like I started that first book just a few weeks ago.

    Just goes to show: Never Give Up! Never Surrender! 🙂

  8. Liz Fredericks

    May 27, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    Jenn, thank you for the inspiration!

  9. lynn mapp

    May 28, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Jenn, you go girl. I’m excited for you. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  10. Mary Vine

    June 2, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Another good reminder to get that website done before you sell!

  11. Mimi DiFrancesca

    November 28, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    Reblogged this on Word Ninja Girl … author, Mimi DiFrancesca and commented:
    Jenn Stark gives Great Advice on writing. Check this out…


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