i said yes (the opposite of a cautionary tale)
Recently I forced myself to do something I’m not naturally inclined to do. I said yes when I wanted to say no…and consequently sold my second novel!
For a person who could write a memoir focusing only on the things I’ve declined (the unfamiliar, the potentially uncomfortable and the too-far-from-home) this was a revelation.
Some autobiographical highlights:
Mom: “Sissy,” (my childhood nickname) “Here are your french fries. We’re out of Heinz but we have Hunts.”
7 year-old me: “No.”
Mom: “They’re both ketchup.”
Me: “I’m not hungry any more.”
Middle-school Outward Bound instructor: “Your turn to repel down the rock, Erika.”
Middle-school Outward Bound instructor: “We will sit here all afternoon until you accomplish this.”
Me: “I’m walking back to the bus.”
High school principal: “I’d like you to be on the It’s Academic TV Team. It’s fun and will look great on your college applications.”
You get the picture.
But recently, as a new (young) grandmother, I have, for the very first time, been able to draw a direct line from my extremely cozy comfort zone to a new opportunity. And I got there by way of soldiering through.
Last spring before Martha Woodroof and I were scheduled to be on a panel together at the Virginia Festival of the Book she sent me an email invite to appear on her radio show, The Spark. I am not exaggerating one little bit when I say I opened her note and gasped so dramatically my house guests thought I’d happened upon an online obituary. All of the cells in my body were shaking their teeny heads in horror.
While I’d been on the radio before it was to read my own essays — sans opportunity to wander off-script and say stupid things to be recorded in perpetuity. (I don’t even like leaving voice mails.)
But something in me realized that I had to say yes.
And here’s what happened. I did the show and had fun and afterwards Martha, the author of a beautiful (and very well-received) novel called Small Blessings asked if I’d written anything else. I told her I was gearing up to look for an agent to represent my next novel which was cooling its heels in my computer. She asked to read it and I sent it to her and then she called me up and said she was arranging my career.
She forwarded the manuscript to Kate Garrick, her (and now our!) wonderful agent who then sold it to the amazing editor Brenda Copeland at St. Martin’s Press (which also published my mom’s Hot Flashes.)
And I can honestly say that from now on, my default position will not be to automatically say no.
It will be to say maybe.