Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A little fish meets a Big Fish

[Haven't forgotten to write about Cúirt. Next time!]

I want to tell you a really cool story that begins more than four years ago now. My father handed me the USA Today books section and pointed to this article about novelist Daniel Wallace and Big Fish. In the interview, Mr. Wallace expresses amazement at the eventual runaway success of his novel, and talks about how much he enjoyed his cameo in Tim Burton's big screen adaptation. I had seen the film with my father and we both enjoyed it very much.

But the real reason he pointed me to the article was this: Mr. Wallace told the interviewer he had written five novels before Big Fish, all of which had been rejected by publishers. At the time, my Practice Novel was generating quite a high stack of rejection letters and I was feeling depressed about it. My dad told me to take heart, that perseverance would eventually bring success, and this article was proof of it. At first I thought, "I think I can write one more novel, and if that novel is rejected, then I'm at the end of my rope." Then I thought, "If Daniel Wallace can write five novels and break out with the sixth, then maybe I can too." Anyway, I stuck with it, and Novel #2 turned out pretty well for me (tee hee). When I gave advice to other writers, I always emphasized perseverance--precisely because of this USA Today article and Daniel Wallace's story.

Fast forward to October 2007. I'd published Mary Modern a few months back and now I was on my way to the Midwest Literary Festival, my first ever (and let me tell you, I was so excited). Daniel Wallace was also attending, though I didn't expect I'd get the opportunity to thank him for his inspiration. I'd be too intimidated, anyway. Well, I actually did meet Daniel Wallace in the backseat of a van on our way to the authors' welcome barbecue, but I, ever-clueless, had it in my head that this guy whose hand I'd just shaken was a literary agent (in fairness, he was only introduced to me as "Dan"). Anyway, I eventually realized who he was, and wondered if I'd be able to talk to him, though I was still feeling a little intimidated. (There were so many established writers at this festival that it was hard not to feel a little mouse-like at first, though I quickly relaxed when I realized just how nice and down-to-earth they all were.)

On the last day of the festival, they had scheduled me for a panel discussion that was going to end right around the time I needed to be taking a car back to the airport. I booked it out of the conference center and down a few blocks back to the hotel to pick up my bags. When I got there, I saw the appointed Lincoln town car, and then I saw Daniel Wallace right beside it. We were going to be sharing a ride to the airport! I couldn't believe the serendipity of it.

As I loaded my bags he said something to the effect of, Are we going to have a chat? I'd like to have a chat but if you'd rather not I just want to know in advance. SO NICE! Of course I want to have a chat, I said. So on the way to the airport I told him the story I've just told you, about how much that USA Today article meant to me. He actually seemed rather taken aback--he is just such a genuinely humble guy. I said, "If my dad had pointed to that article and said, 'Three and a half years from now you'll be riding in the backseat of a Lincoln town car with Daniel Wallace, talking about your publishers and teaching creative writing classes,' I would never have believed him."

So that's my little story of how perseverance pays off.

2 comments:

Kate said...

I don't remember you ever telling me this story. It truly is incredible the way things work out some times.

fghart said...

This was just what I needed this morning!