I now feel safe in announcing to the world at large that my YA novel, Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River, won first place in the Writers Digest International Self-Published Book Awards for children’s/young adult fiction. I told family and friends and then had a week of panic that I’d been the victim of a scam to get my SS# (they asked for it since I won CASH MONEY!). I’ve now confirmed that I really won and that it’s okay for me to announce it even though it won’t be in the magazine until next April. But yeah, I won, or rather Peace won.
I will say now, and then hold my tongue, that this whole year has been incredibly validating for my decision to self-publish. Yeah, I know. I read Miss Snark. I read Miss Snark’s comments. And other writers. Allllll the other writers. I read them so religiously that when I queried Dutton recently, I said *not a word* about my self-pubbed novels, even though they have now racked up two golden cover stickers each. But this one is special, because it’s Writers Digest, which everyone has heard of, and it’s first-place.
Once again I feel as I did in May 2005 when I decided to publish Peace and Mr. Touchdown through iUniverse. I was pretty sure I’d never sell either of them to a traditional publishing company and I had real-time marketing opportunities for both of them—the 40th anniversary of the desegregation of Shelby County, Tenn., schools for Mr. T and a big camp reunion for Peace. I thought I couldn’t sell Mr. T because the damned book was shopworn. I’d gotten about 18 rejections for it. Peace I never really submitted, maybe only about five times. Maybe I could have tried harder, longer, but maybe I could have died trying.
I wanted them to be out there. I’d paid my dues. I’d worked on Mr. T. for 10 years, through nine major revisions, two critique groups, a professional editor, and three different copy editors. I love those characters now as if they were my own children. Long ago they assumed identities totally separate from me, so much so that I once caught myself shaking my head and saying to my crit group, “That Rochelle!” about something she said. They all deserved their place in the world.
And Peace! I can’t say I like Peace better than Mr. T. That’s not true. But it’s more intense, more personal and more sophisticated than Mr. T. That story also deserved a place in the sun, especially for my darling friends from Camp Miramichee.
So maybe I’ve screwed the pooch re: traditional publishing. Maybe if I keep my head down, I can squeak through the eye of the needle with one of my other unpublished MSS. Maybe I’ll sell a screenplay. I still want that—big time. But if not, I still feel great about this. I’ve had the joy of seeing my books in stores and in libraries. I’ve had the joy of speaking to sixth graders and Memphis Rotarians. I’ve been on tay-vay and written up in little newspapers. These joys would not have been mine if I’d let these two MS continue to lie in the slush piles of New York.
*title ripped off from Bo Diddley