Sometimes Dreams Come True Later Than We Think
by Anne McCarthy Strauss
In 1970, Richard Boles wrote, What Color is Your Parachute?, a guide for job seekers, a book so popular that it has been revised every year since 1975. Although a terrific book, I could never understand the need for it and for countless other career guidance books. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since my parents read me my first fairy tales. What could be better than creating characters with all their nuances, thoughts, hopes and dreams and placing them in stories that would take readers to places they’d never otherwise have gone?
Throughout my school years, I loved to read and, unlike most of my peers, I loved to write term papers and essays. The less I knew about the topic, the better, because it gave me the opportunity to do research. Even back in the days when research was performed on microfiche at the local library, it was next only to writing on my favorites list.
I wrote my first “newspaper,” The Princeton Street News, when I was seven. I wrote of the comings and goings of the people who lived on the street where I grew up. Headlines included, “The 6:15,” a piece about my mother’s evening excursions to pick my father up at the train station when he returned from work in New York City, and “Nine O’clock Mass,” an article about how the family across the street piled into their wood-sided station wagon every Sunday morning and headed to the local Catholic church. Each of the female members wore a black mantilla, secured to her head with a bobby pin.
Later, I was a regular contributor to my high school and college newspapers. But I longed for the day when I could put my writing focus on creative writing instead of non-fiction. Then, I’d be able to create my own facts and express them in the voices of my characters. Fantasy, fiction and fairytale were in my future, and doing anything else for a living never crossed my mind.
Always the realist, I majored in Journalism in college, backing it up with credits in creative writing courses. I knew you could get a real job with a steady paycheck working for a newspaper. Work in the creative writing field was more elusive and almost exclusively freelance in nature. I expected to marry a man with a good job after college who would support me while I wrote Great American Novels and raised his children.
But, as it does for most of us, real life intervened with my expectations, and I found myself the single mother of a baby boy at the tender age of 25. I had an excellent job in public relations, a field that allowed me to write such missives as press releases, articles for trade magazines, white papers and sales proposals. It certainly wasn’t what I wanted to write, but at least I was writing.
During sixteen years as a single mother, I managed to eke out two novels, written on weekends and at night while my son was asleep. I marketed them to agents and, although I came close to getting agent representation, almost getting an agent is akin to being a little bit pregnant.
Eventually I married and my son went off to college. Through reading, research and intimate chats with other women, I became aware of a problem that is epidemic in our country. The problem is medical doctors who have affairs with their female patients. The more I asked women if they knew of anyone who had ever experienced such an episode, let alone experienced one herself, the more enraged I became. What I learned was that nobody talks about it, but it happens all the time. Indignant at the thought of yet another professional (think teachers, priests, etc.) taking advantage of someone he’s tasked with caring for, I was fueled to finally write the book that would have the fire it needed to be published.
A Medical Affair took six years of research, writing and editing to be completed. But it was accepted by the second agent I sent it to.
Although it took me far longer than I’d hoped to achieve publication, I know I am in fantastic company. Just two of the many thousands of writers who achieved great success after multiple rejections are Anne Frank and Agatha Christie.
Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was rejected sixteen times before becoming one of the best-known holocaust stories and selling 30 million copies around the world. Agatha Christie endured over 500 rejections spanning just four years, before landing a publishing deal for her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and launching a brilliant writing career.
As an author who was published after decades of trying, I feel qualified to suggest just a little advice to struggling writers. It is this:
- Hold onto your dreams and continue to work toward them. Sometimes dreams come true later than we think.
- Unless the subject fuels your emotions, don’t expect it to fuel those of your readers.
- Let the words of the Rolling Stone’s Ruby Tuesday be your mantra as they are mine. “Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind.”
Anne McCarthy Strauss lives on Long Island, New York with her husband, Mel, and their two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Cookie and Ollie. She is proud to be a native New Yorker who never left town. Anne invites her readers, other authors, and prospective readers and authors to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and to visit her website at http://www.annestrauss.com.
A Medical Affair on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-medical-affair-anne-mccarthy-strauss/1117005363?ean=9781620151747&itm=1&usri=a+medical+affair