I received my stuff back intact, no comments. My new friend Sandra told me something like this:
- I think you have potential.
- You write with too many weak verbs.
- Kill your adverbs.
- Slay your adjectives.
- Only one space after a period.
To be honest, I thought she was bonkers about the period thing. I mean, isn’t that what they taught you in typing class? Period. Space. Space. Capital letter. Of course, I learned she was right, and she was right about everything else, though I didn’t know if I had potential or not. I wrote flowery prose–the type Anne with an E from Anne of Green Gables and Jo from Little Women (in her sensational newspaper days) would applaud.
I used to–I kid you not–go through books like Christy, writing down all the words I thought were beautiful. Then, I’d take the pretty word to a piece I was writing and try to cram the word in, square-peg-round-hole-ish. I particularly remember adding the word wraithlike, describing fog.
My first-ever query letter was long, laborious, and rambling. Thankfully, Sandra got a hold of it before I flung it out there to Discipleship Journal, rescuing me from certain editorial doom. She helped me narrow it from two pages to one, told me not to use a silly font, and showed me what a query structure should be by giving me one of hers. (Now, I do a query workshop. Go figure. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.)
The answer from DJ was a no, but a personalized one. I continued writing query letters left and right, garnering more rejections. Unlike Stephen King, I did not skewer them on a spike or count them. Suffice to say, though, there were aplenty!
And then I got the letter! From a real-live magazine editor with words like, “we are pleased to inform you…” I leapt. I clapped. I smiled. When I got the check, I took Sandra out to lunch to celebrate. She’d had everything to do with that sale because she dared to take me under her editorial/writerly wing and nurture me as a writer.
She was the one to encourage me to go to my first writers conference, a local conference where, in addition to going to seminars, you could pay to get a critique. Little did I know that I was about to encounter a woman whose words nearly squelched my “career.”