One of the dearest and most generous writers I know, Amanda Eyre Ward, has a new novel out this week! Jodi Picoult calls The Same Sky “the timeliest book you will read this year,” and Christina Baker Kline calls it “riveting.” Amanda was an early guest here on 1st Books — in April of 2009. And I’m delighted to be resharing her post today to celebrate her new release! – Meg
Amanda Eyre Ward: Writing on Nights and Weekends Can Get You There
It took me years to write my first novel, Sleep Toward Heaven. I wrote at night and on the weekends while working all sorts of full-time jobs: receptionist at a country music station, librarian, babysitter, curriculum developer for an internet startup. I went to readings at BookPeople, and tried to figure out how to get from being a babysitter to being a published novelist.
One day, while I was answering the phones at a computer company called Dazel, I got an e-mail saying that my short story, “Miss Montana’s Wedding Day,” had won third prize in the Austin Chronicle short story contest. A few months later, StoryQuarterly took my story “Shakespeare.com.” These first publications gave me faith for another year.
I finally found a wonderful agent, Michelle Tessler, to represent my first novel. But Sleep Toward Heaven was rejected by every publishing house in New York. Undaunted, Michelle sent the book to a small publisher in San Francisco. I still have the e-mail Michelle got from editor Anika Streitfeld. Here it is – the book was called GATES OF BREATH at the time:
From MacAdam/Cage! Will keep you posted.
From: Anika Streitfeld
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2002 1:45 PM
To: Michelle Tessler
Subject: GATES OF BREATH
Hi Michelle – I just wanted to let you know that I was blown away by this novel. It is intensely moving, insightful, and masterfully written. David Poindexter, our publisher, is going to read it next. Thank you so much for sharing this novel with me. I have my fingers crossed…Talk with you soon, Anika
Shortly after this note, Anika made an offer on the book. I took the entire advance and bought my husband a Big Green Egg, a fancy barbecue grill. I thought life would never be sweeter. Anika was hired by Random House a few years later, and I followed her there.
Of course, there’s no one answer. But I vowed that if I ever sold my novel, I would tell people how hard it was. It’s so hard to keep faith, when you’re writing at night while your friends nap or drink margaritas. It’s so hard believing you have something important to say. It’s hard to work in isolation, in your pajamas. But I love novels. The dream of creating something that could give a reader the hours of pleasure and thought that my favorite books have given me kept me writing, and keeps me here, typing, day after day. – Amanda