A Young Writer's Journey to Success
by Korina Chilcoat
We are artists. Yes, we use the title “writer” to describe what we do but, in fact, we are artists who paint pictures with words. As artists, there is a far different connection with our work than individuals who perform a typical 9 to 5 job. Our work is an extension of our souls, so when we face rejection, are criticized, or don’t have our work accepted it’s not like someone is simply judging the quality of our work. They are judging and evaluating everything we are and who we stand for. It feels like they’re not saying the work isn’t good enough; they’re saying we’re not good enough.
As a fellow artist, I know as well as anyone the heartache that follows after a painful rejection. Like any breakup, the aftermath, for me, is usually marked by several tears shed and a bantering rage against the imbeciles who didn’t find my submission up to par, followed by cookie dough binge eating.
However, somehow I manage to pick myself up and dust myself off and continue on after each fall. To quote a line from the song “Moving Too Fast” from one of my favorite Broadway musicals The Last Five Years, the protagonist Jamie, also a budding author, utters, “Things might get bumpy but some people analyze every detail. Some people stall when they can’t see the trail. Some people freeze out of fear that they’ll fail, but I keep rolling on. Some people can’t get success with their art. Some people never feel love in their heart. Some people can’t tell the two things apart, but I keep rolling on.”
My writing journey started three years ago. Previously, I had written casually for fun and leisure but I thought to myself, maybe I have something important to share with others where they can read the words I write and feel the same way about the things I’m so passionate about. So, I began to research writing contests online. Amidst my busy schedule I would somehow find time to pen thought-provoking essays, emotional poetry, and scandalous short stories. Contest after contest after contest, I would eagerly mail in my carefully crafted literary pieces, ensuring each word rang out clear and vividly on the page.
Unfortunately, editors and judges weren’t as eager. My collection of rejection letters grew into medium-sized heap shoved into a shoebox under my bed, out of sight. But this only made me determined to prove them wrong, that my work was worthy.
I soon doubled the amount of submissions I sent out, sending work to any publication house or contest which I was eligible. My work consisted on everything from the dancing pattern of honeybees to poetry about heart-broken, distant lovers. Still, I wasn’t getting the news I desired. My unbridled optimism began to fade with the passing days and increasing income of rejection letters and worst of all no news at all. I began to doubt myself. Was my work good enough? Why didn’t anybody see potential in what I was producing? Should I continue to create or choose a more sensible, rewarding hobby? My submissions slowed and eventually nearly came to a complete halt.
Then, one ordinary day, in one ordinary week, of an ordinary month, I logged into my email account, like I did several times a day, to find an email from a Dallas Woodburn. Dallas Woodburn? That name seemed familiar and I kept repeating it over and over in my head. I decided not to simply sit there and continue to guess like an imbecile so I clicked open the email. To my shock it was a writing contest I had entered several months back and I was thrilled to discover that I had placed honorable mention in this national contest for my poem!
This was the news I needed and had waited so long to hear. Two years spent sending submissions around the country and the world to finally have the gratification of finally knowing that I did something right. My stall ended and I went back into writing full force.
So now, as I recently celebrated my nineteenth birthday, I am proud to say that I have been published in the national youth magazine Teen Ink (which my article made the cover), in several national anthologies of writing (one of which I won first place in the nation and received a congratulatory letter from my state's Senator), and one of my poems is in the final round of submissions to be published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, hitting bookstores across the nation July 2011. Looking to the past is bittersweet, seeing that teenage girl furiously typing away at her computer, ignoring the rejection letters stuffed in a pile.
But this story isn’t just about me -- it’s about you, too. This is the message, the mantra, the manifesto of the wanna-be writer: failure isn’t fatal and those who fall are only failures if they stay sitting on the ground. You do not know which unsuccessful attempt is the last one right before your moment of glory, your big break, your time in the spotlight. So keep pressing forward, do what you do, and you just might find out that your dreams can come true.
Korina Chilcoat's poem "What Makes You Happy?" is featured in Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing, the debut anthology from Write On! Books. To contact Korina regarding writing inquires and speaking engagements you can email her at email@example.com. To find out more about her, check out her literary blog “Louder Than Words” at http://korinachilcoat.blogspot.com