Rita Plush is here with us on Women’s Fiction Writers today to share her story of writing, querying, and publication. You’re sure to be inspired by Rita and her determination to see LILY STEPS OUT in print. I know I am!
Please welcome Rita to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Lily Steps Out…Finally: My Journey To Publication
By Rita Plush
Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, with college-aged children of my own, I was a student, plugging away over an eleven-year period to earn degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing. But it was only when I tried to get my first novel published, that I came to understand the true meaning of commitment and patience.
Originating as a short story, “Lily Steps Out,” is a middle-age coming-of-age novel about a married woman who ‘steps out’ of her domestic life into the business world after her husband retires. This is an interesting couple, I thought, and continued writing about them.
I brought my efforts to my writers’ group and listened to their input and critiques. I worked on the characters, dialogue and plot line. After a time, the pages became chapters. Eventually, I had the first draft of a book which I painstakingly edited and brought back to my group. More recommendations, more character development, till the moment came—five years from that first chapter—when I decided this is a book, and tried to find an agent.
The dozens query letters I sent out brought in almost as many rejections—some agents didn’t respond at all—and I began to realize that finding an agent might take almost as much time and effort as writing the book itself. I labored on, and then months later, voila! An agent who liked what she saw—characters alive and vivid with real lives and real problems. Bidding wars and movie deals danced in my head, but alas, though publishers thought the writing “energetic and entertaining” and “were drawn to the characters,” they didn’t take my book.
My book. My book was about a woman with spirit and drive, a homemaker who’d spent her life caring for her family and then wanted more out of life than making beds and cooking dinners. Did Lily sit back because things didn’t go her way, or did she risk everything she had to get the life she wanted? And so I took a lesson from Lily. If my agent couldn’t find me a publisher, I’d find one on my own, and offered Lily to the handful of publishers who accepted non-agented fiction.
To my disappointment, my efforts fared no better than those of my agent, and something began to nag at me. Was I objective about the book? Or had I developed such a crush on Lily and my other characters that I couldn’t see what was right about them and what was not? Maybe I needed some of that proverbial space between me and them, and so I set the book aside and began another novel.
Years passed. Self-publishing had become the route for many authors who couldn’t otherwise get their books into print. Lily called to me.
But first, I dug deep, looking for the gold in Lily Gold. I tightened the prose, eliminated every non-essential scene and bit of dialogue that didn’t reveal a character’s personality or move the story forward, updating the social references along the way. I hired a professional editor to proof-read and fine-tune the whole business, and signed up a graphic artist to design the cover.
I was so close to self-publishing, I’d already chosen the company and sent them the cover on approval. Then one day I slipped my hand into a coat pocket and out came a scrap of paper with Penumbra Publishing written in my own handwriting. What’s this? I said to myself.
This, it turned out, was my prayed-for-dreamed-of-I-don’t-pay-to-get-published-publisher, who found my novel, “…engaging, with unique characters that gave the tale a certain refreshing charm.”
The rest, as they say is history, Lily’s history, and the twelve years from start to finish, when I began the book to the day it was accepted. Was it worth all the time and effort? Yes indeed! Keep at it, don’t give up.
Rita Plush is an author, teacher, interior designer, and Coordinator of the Interior Design & Decorating Certificate at Queensborough Community College; there she teaches several courses in the program. Rita has also lectured on the decorative arts at libraries throughout Long Island, and at Hofstra University and CW Post-Hutton House.
Her writing practice includes fiction and non-fiction and her stories and essays have appeared in many literary journals including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iconoclast, The MacGuffin, Passager, and most recently www.persimmontree.org. “Lily Steps Out” is her first novel (Penumbra Publishing, May 2012), and she is at work on a second novel that follows some of the characters in “Lily.” She is also putting the finishing touches on a collection of short stories called “Step into My Heart, the Door is Round and Wide.” Rita is a member of LIAG, Long Island Authors’ Group.
Newsday’s Act II, July 19, 2012, featured Rita as “published and proud,” and Times Ledger—August 23-29—headed their feature, “Rita Steps Out.”
Visit her website www.ritaplush.com for more information about Rita and Lily.