When I was a wee Lark, my older brother, Broseph, and I were in a zoo. Specifically, in the reptile/insect/other ickoids section. A zoo lady was in the last room, doing some exhibition thing with a hairy, eight-legged lump of ‘So Over This.’ She called it a tarantula. Being a reader, I knew all about tarantulas. They are covered in butt hairs and have swords in their mouths.
Zoo Lady offered the tarantula out for kids to hold. Broseph, bold and manly as anyone in elementary school can be, immediately took a turn. Zoo Lady then offered the tarantula to me. Wary of mouth swords, and not certain that a hand washing could fix butt-hair-handling, I quickly shook my head. She laughed, and turned away. “Oh, girls never want to hold him.”
I immediately held out my hand. I wanted that verbing spider in my hand. No way in hell was I going to do or not do something just because I was a GIRL.
It was too late. Zoo Lady had wandered off into that mystical place behind the walls of most insectoid habitats, taking the tarantula with her.
It’s a silly little story with an uninspiring end. I could have shrugged it off, and run out after Broseph as he eagerly told our folks about the tarantula. Then we moved on and did other zoo things. I don’t remember what—probably feeding giraffes crackers. Maybe we even ate hotdogs. Who knows?
But I’ve always regretted not holding that spider. I knew, even at the time, that nothing bad would happen if I held him. Even if I squealed and accidentally dropped him and ran around flapping my hands like a drunk flamingo, no one would have looked down on me particularly hard. I was a girl, after all.
But I hadn’t even tried. I was too scared.
I’ve made it my mission, since that very long time ago, to do things. All the things. I loathe unanswered ‘what if’s. I would much rather live with a string of failures than with an untarnished slate.
I’m applying this to the whole ‘author’ thing, as well. The Writer’s Voice was an amazing experience—I made it onto a team! I worked hard on my pitch! My wonderful coach, Monica, helped me craft the best damn query letter I. Have. Ever. Crafted!
I got absolutely zero votes!
It would be a disservice to creative endeavors everywhere for me to lie right now and say that I took this well.
It was humiliating. It was heart-breaking. Five years ago, I decided to get serious about being an author. Five years of effort, a LOT of people telling me I just won’t make it—for no apparent reason other than the fact that people you know in real life just don’t do unordinary things like authoring successfully—and I choked on my biggest opportunity yet. I was at Dayjob for most of the voting time, and had to deal with people whining about the size of their pastries and the brownness of their bread while my life dream was just sort of casually not happening in the background.
I made it through most of the day without crying. Yes, I’m female, but the last time I cried I was having a panic attack. A year ago. The time before that? I woke up from a concussion-experience that could have technically killed me. I’m not trying to brag, I’m just saying that it takes a lot to rattle my cage. And on the day that I realized I wasn’t going to garner any interest in my biggest author-opportunity to date, I stuffy-cried at work, then I went home and sobbed for hours, and felt like the biggest, dumbest baby on the planet because of it.
Again, I’m only writing about this because posterity may want to know.
Also, after everything, after I leap-frogged back into the saddle and made myself a giant list of to-do’s and potentials, I totally got a ninja vote.
A real, proper agent (who is totally cool and who I would LOVE to link to, but won’t, because we’re still just in email chats and revisions) who was not officially involved in the contest, is considering my book. Ninja Agent has read and enjoyed the book. We’ve talked on the phone. I’ve just sent Ninja Agent my first five chapters, with suggested revisions, and soon, hopefully, we’ll see if they actually want to represent me.
Ninja Agent may change their mind. Or, they may decide to sign me, and then my book may fail to sell. It’s possible that I will breach the agent-wall and then fail to ever sell ANY book. It’s possible I’ll spend the rest of my life working lame Dayjobs and writing during my lunch breaks—writing stories only my friends will read and enjoy.
But I’m trying. I wrote the book. I wrote before that. I’ll write more after. I work hard, and I’m willing to work harder.
If not for The Writers Voice contest, I wouldn’t have a working query. I wouldn’t have this shot with Ninja Agent. I wouldn’t know how tough I can be—because, again, in the interest of full disclosure, being passed by after all that buildup was an emotional gnad-punt. But I’m back in the saddle. I’m ready to keep trying.
I implore you, whoever you are, not to shy away from the spiders in life. Not necessarily real ones, because, again, butt hairs and sword-teeth, but whatever it is that creeps and crawls on your personal dreams. Let fear drive you. Never let it control the breaks.