A Day in the Life of a Newly Sold Writer

I realized last night that I will never have to worry about forgetting what day I actually sold my first book. May 18, 2005 — also the 25th anniversary of the Mt. Saint Helens eruption.

Of course, living in Washington State (in fact only about 50 or so miles from Mt. Saint Helens), the media around here makes a huge deal of “Where were YOU when the mountain blew?” Every year, we all rehash where we were when the mountain blew up (I was 14 and driving home from work with my dad), what we saw (big mushroom cloud in the sky), and what other experiences we had (scraping ash off picnic tables and putting it in a jar on my bedroom shelf, until it fell off and broke a year later, coating my bedroom with a layer of ash that took another year to completely get out of the carpet). It’s a Washingtonian thing.

Not any more! Now, on every anniversary of Mt. Saint Helens’ eruption, I will say to my husband, “Do you remember where you were when I called you and told you I sold my book?” And he will say, “Yes, honey. I was at work and you were sobbing into the phone, and I was saying ‘I told you so.'” (He will have no qualms whatsoever about rubbing that in, either.)

So, how has life changed since I sold 32 hours and 54 minutes ago? Not much. Well, except for the walking on air thing. 

What happens in a day in the life of a newly, FINALLY, “legitimate” writer…actually, anyone who puts words on paper or types them into a computer, is a “legitimate” writer as far as I’m concerned, so maybe I should rephrase that to…newly, finally, ACKNOWLEDGED writer?

This is what happens:

9:30 a.m. PST: Agent Extraordinaire informs writer that offer has been formally accepted.

9:31 a.m.: Writer hyperventilates, then slowly begins choking on own bodily fluids as they begin to gush forth from various cranial orifices. It’s not pretty. It also uses up a lot of tissue.

9:45 a.m.: Finally able to speak, writer calls husband on phone to tell him the news. Begins gushing again, making it very difficult to carry on a conversation, so writer just listens to husband repeat over and over again, “I told you so. Didn’t I tell you so? What were my last words when I walked out the door this morning? Was I not right?” Writer just nods head and continues to gush.

9:55 a.m.: Calls parent’s house to speak to father. No one answers.

9:56 a.m.: Calls sister’s house to speak to mother, who is supposed to be babysitting. Informed by sister’s mother-in-law that writer’s parents left town this morning. Huh?

9:57 a.m.: Calls grandmother. Asks why parents have deserted writer in hour of glory. Tells grandmother good news instead. Happily listens to her cheer. Then tells grandmother NOT to tell parents good news if they call. They deserve to suffer for deserting writer in hour of glory. They will have to wait until return in five days. Perhaps even longer, depending on how vindictive writer is feeling by then.

10:10 a.m.: Begins calling writing friends. Listens to screams, voices fears, soaks up soothing words and prays to God they’re right.

10:50 a.m.: Jumps in fright when writer realizes someone is standing behind her in bedroom. It’s hubby with 3 dozen roses. Writer decides any and all trauma caused by hubby in the last 19 years of marriage is forgiven. Puts flowers in water and tells hubby everything that everyone has said to writer in the last hour…until hubby reminds writer that SOME people really do have to get back to work.

11:00 a.m.: Feeling guilty now, WRITER attempts to go back to work herself, since writer promised transcription company she would work longer than her normal 3 hours today. However, typing hemorrhoidectomy surgery for 7 crappy cents a line, after learning you are going to finally be published, loses all appeal. Okay, it didn’t have that much appeal in the first place, but now it has even less appeal.

12:00 p.m.: Gives up trying to work. Signs off. Takes Excedrin to try to get rid of headache brought on by tears and stuffy nose.

12:10 p.m.: Begins notifying those who can be notified by e-mail. Fields congrats by phone and e-mail. Decides a newly-acknowledged author should not have to cook–or look at her messy house while making her daughter cook. Calls hubby and tells him he is taking family out to dinner.

12:15 p.m.: Returns to overflowing e-mail box. Checks Publishers Marketplace a thousand times to see if announcement has posted yet.

1:00 p.m.: Writer decides that showering for the first time in two days might be a good idea, since can’t go to celebratory dinner while looking skanky.

2:30 p.m.: Runs errands, watches teen daughter beam when she finds out mother is now FINALLY going to be a published author. She decides she is “famous by association.”

4:00 pm.: Writer tells 9-yo son that she finally sold her book. Son nods without taking eyes off Yu-Gi-Oh cartoon and asks, “What about the four OTHER ones you wrote?” Writer grits teeth and retreats to bedroom to check e-mails from people who understand writing process.

4:45 p.m.: Publishers Marketplace arrives in e-mail box and writer cries again when she sees her announcement. Prints it out for hubby to take to work tomorrow to prove to everyone he has an awesome wife. Snort. Like they didn’t already know THAT.

5:00 p.m.: Fingers numb from answering congratulatory e-mails, writer and family head to dinner, after writer tries ibuprofen this time, in attempt to REALLY get rid of headache brought on by tears. Enjoys nachos appetizer, then salmon fettucini, but seriously can’t do dessert, no matter how much it would add to celebration.

7:00 p.m.: Okay, since the car stops at Baskin Robbins, writer will FORCE down dessert just this once. Ha!

7:40 p.m.: Writer is beginning to crash from the day’s high. Bed is looking better and better. Headache still present, so writer downs two Tylenol PM for pain relief and sleep. Resolves not to become drug addict during writing career. First day is not looking good for keeping that resolution. Puts on pj’s. Writers can put their pj’s on any damn time they please!!

8:00 p.m.: 17 emails have arrived in the last 2-1/2 hours. As well as 10 congrats on writing loop. Reads each one over and over again, to get full ego-boosting effect. Answers some of them as consciousness begins to ebb.

9:30 p.m.: Perks up briefly to watch “Stacked.” Some things must remain normal.

9:58 p.m.: Tries to prop eyelids open for two more minutes until show is over.

10:00 p.m.: Lapses into coma so deep writer may NEVER wake up again.

12:30 a.m.: Wakes up abruptly from deep, dreamless sleep. Uses bathroom. Crawls back into bed for the rest of blissfully refreshing sleep.

12:31 a.m., 12:32, 12:33, 12:34, 12:35, ad infinitum: Stares at ceiling and stresses about writing-related things…like edits, and book signings, and print runs, and sell-through, and what to write next, and…. and…. well, whatever else it took THREE FREAKING HOURS to stress about, until having sufficiently purged enough to go back to sleep.

For TWO lousy hours, until alarm rang at 5:30 a.m. Ugh.

Still….It was definitely one of the best days of my life, and I hope all you dreamers out there get to experience the same thing!! 

© 2006 Shannon McKelden


Q:  When did you start writing?

A:  My wade into writing began in the 6th grade when I found out that my short stories earned me A+’s, even though my penmanship earned me D’s. Enjoying the pats on the back led to more and more stories…including epic sagas in which I starred as the girlfriend of the Hardy Boy’s Shawn Cassidy.


Q:  What was your first review of your writing?

A:  My first "review" came from my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Low, who said she got  “goosebumps” from my entirely fictionalized character sketch, for which I earned myself the coveted A+++. (I was very greedy about grades back then.)  This came entirely out of the fact that I couldn't think of anybody real about whom to write a good character sketch, so I completely made it up.


Q:   What other jobs have you held?

A:  I've been a raspberry picker, a shoe salesman, a bank teller, a medical transcriptionist, a medical transcription company manager, a freelance writer, copy editor and ebook formatter, as well as a novelist.  


Q:  What was the first thing you ever sold?  

A:  Once I got into writing seriously, I sold two short stories to True Love and True Confessions magazines. What a kick that was! Especially when the checks arrived in the mail…I was a published author (albeit one with no byline, but you can’t have everything). A really cheesy love poem finally earned me a byline, legitimizing my authorship.


Q:  How long did it take you to write your first book?

A:  Way too long!  I started my first romance novel in about 1989, which I finished a mere nine years later when I rejoined the Romance Writers of America and really learned what it took to write a book. In 2000, I decided I had to either write for real or throw out the dream permanently. I went on to write five novels, finally making my first sale on May 18, 2005! (See that story above.) 





Q:  What's your favorite charity?

A:  One year, at a book launch party for my friend,  Jane Porter, she brought along a representative from Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program.  I’d never heard of it before, but I’ll never forget it again.  The rep read some letters from kids who had received THEIR FIRST BOOK EVER from Page Ahead.  Their first book!  I can’t even imagine not owning hundreds of books.  Even my kids own hundreds of books, and began their lives with shelves overflowing with books.  To think there are children out there who have no books of their own.  Who write letters full of joy that they now own ONE book…a book they will gladly read daily to their siblings…who feel blessed because they have a book they don’t have to return to a library or leave at school.  That hit me where it hurt.  Please consider contributing!