Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Warrior Wednesday: Tales from the Unpubbed - Joanna St. James

The new year is here, and with it comes new dreams, expectations and the chance to build our arsenal of tools for the ultimate fight: getting published.

No, I'm not asking you to go all G.I. Jane, but it's a basic story we can learn from. Don't give up, and don't let anyone tell you you can't.

I'm starting a new segment on Wednesdays to honor my fellow battle-scarred warriors and to share a few tales from the frontlines. Tales from the Unpubbed is about the unpublished author's experiences and hopefully will encourage other warriors to keep up the good fight.

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce my first guest - Ms. Joanna St. James...

You know one thing I have learned in my little while here on earth is that every individual is stressed out just up to their maximum limit. One other thing I have learned since I started blogging, is that it is always good to be able to share your experiences with people who understand you. So when Melinda told me about this series I jumped at it mainly because, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to let other writers know that there are loads of us in the same boat as you.

Amongst other books I read the complete works of Shakespeare when I was eight years old (I did not understand the olde english but I read it anyway) so you see my love for books started before I can remember. It also did not help that I had a dad who inspired me to reach for the stars - he encouraged me to write when I was a kid but I said I would whenever I became ready after all 'how hard can writing be?' - I now like to refer to this as my ego induced haze.

This haze/era lasted till I became an adult and had a baby two years ago, I felt empowered by the birth of my son and my shiny new and hard earned masters degree so I picked up a notepad and a pen and started to write.
I did no homework, all I knew was that I was going to write for harlequin and they would love me, and then it all started to go wrong; my story could only go as far as 5k words (I eventually reached 7.5k), I looked at the harlequin website and the only line I could submit my word count to was Spice Briefs so I sent my plotless and sweet story to Spice Briefs and even had the nerve to get huffy when they told me they would get back to me between 2-4 months - I got rejected six weeks later.

Of Course I was not well equipped to handle a rejection so I went into hiding for another 2 years, I did not write but at least I did my research, read articles and anything I could get my hands on till June 2010. In May my family moved to Corsica and I decided I was going to follow my dreams, I quit my job and decided to stay home with my kidlet and write. In two months I completed two first drafts and then on August 2nd I heard the HMB medical line was offering a fast track to newbie writers like me, so I jumped on that train and now have a requested partial in that office with my fingers crossed.

My rejection count to date is 2 rejection letters (I hope it stays that way because my writer's skin is still kinda tender) During the day I spend time with my toddler and you bloggers, then I write in the dead of the night when everyone has gone to bed usually from 12-3 or 4am, I wake up at 9am or earlier sometimes and start the day over again.

I know my life as a writer might sound tame compared to some of you but believe you me, that is about all I can handle. Does anything about my life resonate with yours? and of course I love hearing advice on ways to get pubbed.

Thanks for having me Melinda.

Thank you for being here Joanna!! To follow Joanna on her path to publication, click here.

Stay tuned next Wednesday for yet another special guest and more war stories.


  1. Nice to meet a fellow warrior, Joanna. Good luck with partial!

  2. Hi Melinda!

    Hi Joanna! Two rejection letters? Sheesh! If only... ;)

    Man, I started, what I thought was going to be my writing career, in 1994. Yup - that long ago. I was a stay-at-home mom and like you, I wrote in the dead of night (best time when you have small kids). Now, remember, back then everything was done by snail mail and the internet? Well, let's just say most people thought it was a fad - so there I was waiting for months on end to hear from an editor (never queried an agent). The gals at Harlequin were the bomb! I was on a first name basis with them (personally, I think I was wearing them down) and I continued to send out to other big name publishers too. One of these other Publishers requested a partial and then a full - so exciting! But then???
    Life happened. Bills needed to be paid and all that - so I went back to work. Funny thing is, I had worked so hard and was so disciplined with my writing - that transitioning that energy into a work environment was no sweat. It was easy - and profitable. With a growing bank account and a recovering ego - I had to make a hard choice when the revise and resubmit letter came from that big publisher who had my full. At first, I tried to do both - two things that required my creative energy - but two weeks in - I realized I couldn't do it. It was a tough choice. Do I continue to make money and build the successful business I'd started or do I put it aside and concentrate on something that was not a sure thing?
    In the end - I gave up my dream for the time being - and contributed as best I could to our household. There was always an understanding between honey and I that I would pursue my dream when the last child was out of university and so, um, here I am. I'm looking at this as a second chance. The first time around I went this way alone - this time? I'm leaning on all you guys. :) It is a war some days and I'm so happy to be able to find people who will talk about it so openly. Hey, what can I say? Misery does like company. ;D

    Thanks guys for posting this. And Joanna? Two rejection letters? Crapatola! I could paper my bedroom with all mine.


  3. 'Tales from the unpubbed' is a great idea. Thanks, Melinda.

    Joanna - thanks for sharing and best of luck with that partial.

  4. Hi Melinda - over here from Joanna's. Love this idea! We all could use someone to commiserate with/be encouraged by!

    And Joanna - Thanks for sharing your story, and I don't know how on earth you function as a mother on only 4-5 hours of sleep!!!!

  5. Great blog! I wonder how many of us are up late at night writing when our kids are sleeping? We should have hats. :)

  6. Melinda - great idea for a blog post. Thanks for the shout out on the Savvy loop!

    Joanna- hang in there. You have a great attitude and use each rejection to learn something new, perfect your craft. I write at night as well with two small kids and a full-time job - so I'll be thinking of you and cheering you on as I write!


  7. Wow!! Thank you Melinda B Pierce for hosting the fabulous Joanna St James!! What a warrior woman and writer too!! I think it's only a matter of time (by the end of the year of course!!!) that Ms St James will be all published and by golly she deserves to be!! Yay for her!!

    Take care

  8. Hi Melinda, thanks for the Warrior Wednesdays- Tales of the Unpubbed! We definitely going to learn a lot from this new series.

    Hi Joanna, thanks for sharing. I sincerely hope as all the HM&B offices open for the new year that your partial is accepted and a call for the "full" is made!

  9. Melinda, I absolutely love this blog idea :). It's like a girls night out for unpublished writers (guys welcome too ;)).

    Joanna, you'll get there sooner than you think. Thanks for sharing. You have such contagious, positive energy :). I'm saving a spot on my shelf for your first book.

  10. Good luck with the partial. Rejections stink. I have one, and it wasn’t too bad since the manuscript was already under contract, but it still sucked getting rejected. My best advice is if one publisher rejects it, submit it someplace else.

  11. Hi Melinda,

    Great idea this Warrior Wednesday, and Joanna's input is every thing I expected from her - a professional presentation!


  12. Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping in. Isn't Joanna the best? Nas is my guest next week and I can't wait to read her story too.

    Murphy - what a great story! Thanks for sharing.

    Rebecca - I'm one of those too who puts the kiddo to bed and waits for complete silence to start writing.

  13. Love her blog! And great to learn more about her too. I am blown away about the Shakespeare at age 8 thing. Wow!

  14. You say you have a tender skin when it comes to rejection Joanna, but I suspect a steely interior. You go girl, and I know you will reach the pub stage soon! Great to see you back.

    Thx Melinda for hosting this series. It's going to be a blast!

  15. Hey Mel,
    GREAT IDEA! Love love love it. And Joanna, great post. Always so honest and relatable. It's a hard road, but totally worth it in the long run, and I know it so encouraging to feel that we are not alone. Most writers experience rejection and setbacks etc., the key is to press on! Can't wait to read your call story some day soon.

  16. That first rejection can be a kick to the crotch, can't it?

  17. Awww, touching story but nonetheless, never give up hope. For me, i have been writing since when i can remember and up till now, i am still honing my craft because you need to perfect it every single day. Do not let anybody put you down. We all learn every day as no man is an island.

    One day, we will all look back as pubbed authors also advising wanna-bes. And who knows, we may just be as successful as J.K. Rowling or Stephen King?

  18. I'm amazed by Shakespeare at age 8. I was still reading chapter books. We all start someplace, and I think your writing start is a good one. Never give up.

  19. What a wonderful idea Melinda. I've been trying to think of a weekday theme to blog on, but I keep finding all these others so much more fun reading than creating my own.

    Joanna! Great writer's story. And at *&*^&^ something yrs old, I still don't understand olde English. I can totally relate to rejections though. I got two for the same ms...from the same editor. Long story. But it would've been three r's had 'another editor' replied back after requesting the full. Since then, like you I was introduced to the medical Fasttrack (thanks again Melinda!). I have a full subbed as of December 18th. So, I'm feeling your waiting stress here in Oklahoma, USA. Good luck. You deserve it.

  20. Btw Mel- love the new blog design!

  21. Hi Everyone,

    Hopefully Joanna(and we all!) can one day connect with at least one other human being and through her fiction say, "Look, I've been through real
    hardship and real pain, and I made it...and this is how.
    Hang in, because you can survive this."

    Melinda's asking me to show my battle scars for next Wednesday's can I, Oh God, this scars hurt too much and the wound is not healed yet, but being a warrior I've got to show up!! So I'll be here next Wednesday!

  22. Hi Joanna!
    There is nothing tame about spending your days with a toddler and your nights at the computer. Good luck with your partial! I did the same as you. In January 2010 I decided to take the year off from my work to pursue my dream of publication. It worked for me! I hope it works for you. But don't pin all your hopes and dreams on one manuscript. Continue writing and researching and editing, so when they ask to see something else, you're ready!

  23. you guys and gals are the best. I knew you would get me :)
    Thank you for all the advice you better believe am soaking it up like a sponge

  24. Hi Joanna! Wow, you sound just like me. My first rejection put me into hiding for well over 2 years telling myself I stunk and there was no way I could ever do this. But, that bad voice finally went away. Good luck with your partial.

  25. Hope that partial is successful! I understand about having a tender writer's skin. I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed for you!