do not be thrown off your rails

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

There are a million things that can throw the writer off her own rails. Fear that she is being eclipsed. Fear that she is unheard or unseen. Fear that she is second tier or third tier, maybe even fourth. Fear that the Elite will always and forever be the Elite, an unbreachable club. Fear that she can't or fear that she won't or fear that the wrong reader, with a decade's old complaint about her style, personality, or hair, will one-star the book to death in every public forum.

Two weeks ago I learned that two of my books are being sent off to the No More Farm, their publisher, Egmont, going out of business.

Just yesterday I learned that a book that had been destined for foreign translation will no longer be translated. I am not, as it turns out, a star in Germany.

I could be thrown from my rails. I won't be thrown from my rails.

Because, in the end: I remember this. We are writing because it is what we feel impelled to do. We are doing (unless we are rushing or lazy or writing for the wrong reasons) the best that we can. Our measure, as human beings, is not the number of prizes or the number of books written or the number of books sold or the number of stars given but the number of times we actually stepped outside of ourselves and lived bright, thought big, made connections, reached over the fence toward another.

One of the reasons I love teaching at Penn as much as I love teaching at Penn is that it gives me zero time to worry about accolades or counts. I'm just worried about knowing as much as I can about how stories get made. Desperate (and it's all consuming, it takes every spare moment) to find the words and books and exercises to whisper down the lane.

20 comments:

Serena said...

I want to save your books...I love them. What about the publisher of Nest. Flight. Sky?

Jeannine Atkins said...

No, you will not be thrown off the rails.

Sometimes the world seems so harsh. Other times amazing. I know you feel the same and I'm so glad you keep on looking for all the right words. This matters to people you see and those you don't. Thank you.

Beth Kephart said...

Serena, you are so sweet, and I thank you. SheBooks is reconfiguring and will reemerge, we all hope.

And Jeannine, thank you. And by the way. I'd be happy to, if it helps (you know what I mean?)

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh Beth... you have no idea what this means to me today after a heartbreaking writing day yesterday. I even wrote an email to you in tears, then deleted every word because it seemed so silly. Then you answer my unsent email with this post today. Thank you. xo

A.S. King said...

Someone once asked me what I would do if I was invisible. It took me a while to answer. In the end I decided I would wander around the Earth and help people somehow. I wasn't sure how or where or why, but a lot of scenarios went through my head. In the end I said I would only become invisible if I could still write books and talk to my friends.

In the end, we are so lucky to do what we do, Beth.
I am so sorry to hear that two of my favorite books will be leaving us.

Also, for what it's worth, I am also not a star in Germany. We should drink to this at some point.

Liviania said...

I am so sad by the closing of EgmontUSA. There were so many good books on their list.

Lilian Nattel said...

You are a star in my book and I'm picky about who I put in the firmament.

Vicky Lorencen said...

Depending on where I reside on the day's pessimism/optimism scale, I could dismiss your post as poppycock. I'm grateful my noggin is on kilter today and I can see the beauty and wisdom in your words. Thank you.

Katrina said...

You are so on track you take my breath away. Very very sorry about Egmont. But your beautiful work will endure.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

This post really resonated with me, Beth. I think I'm going to print and tape it up above my desk. Daily I feel as though I'm going to be thrown off my rails by one thing or another. My mental state and thoughts can be debilitating and my insecurity insurmountable at times.

I admire you greatly as a writer and as a person. Thank you for this so much.

Sending tons of good thoughts and hugs over the devastating news about Egmont. xo

Beth Kephart said...

I stand in such good company among all of you. Thank you.

Jo Knowles said...

Such a great reminder to remember what this is all about and why we really do what we do. The one stars still sting. A lot. But the letter from the kid who says, "Hey, thanks for making me feel like I'm not the only one" more than makes up for it. <3 Thanks for taking the time to post this!

Jean Reidy said...

Oh yes. I needed this today. I had all of the above self-doubt before my morning coffee. Thank you, Beth!

caramac said...

"We are writing because it is what we feel impelled to do." Your words are timely, and for me, a new writer, to hear your struggle, it reminds me that I'm not alone. I appreciate you!

Beth Kephart said...

I just want to say how very appreciative I am of all of you. All. Your stories are my stories. We're in this together.

Michael G-G said...

As others have said, very timely. I need such reminders, constantly. Thank you for speaking truth to insecurity, Beth.

Danielle Burnette said...

Thank you, Beth, for your honesty and positivity. It is inspiring to read a blog that doesn't feel like a carefully polished facade, designed to perpetuate a perfect fantasy instead of reality. I am a writer, struggling to emerge, who has just discovered and started reading your wonderful books. I wish you well!

Beth Kephart said...

Michael, Danielle, all of you — thank you for standing here among us, and with me. And Liviania — miss you, and I know!

Sarah Laurence said...

Like Melissa, I feel like you wrote this post for me. What better demonstration of your authorial skill than to see your words resonate with so many people, including other successful authors?

My ms on submission was another Egmont fatality so I feel your pain. I'm pleased to have Dangerous Neighbors in my library, a fine book that will never be forgotten. I shall follow your sage advice and keep writing.

I was catching up on blogs today and saw that this post was featured in YA Highway's Week in Review. Congratulations!

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