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On Turning 40, Loss, and Moving On


Self portrait inspired by a trip to the Dalí museum to see the work of Rene Magritte


Something about turning 40 makes one reflective.

This seems like one of those milestone birthdays where something important is supposed to happen.

In all honesty, I was hoping for something great.

Instead, 16 days before the big day, I opened an e-mail from my agent in the teacher’s lounge one awful Monday afternoon.

I was waiting to hear back about a couple of my books and when I saw his e-mail in my inbox. I could not wait to open it! But this wasn’t the news I was waiting for, this was a break up letter… My agent was leaving the business!

The tears fell instantly. I made a beeline for the bathroom hoping to pull myself together before my short break was over. I still had three hours left in the school day and I was a mess. Brokenhearted.

This news felt like being spun around and sent the wrong direction from a dream, a loss of something hard worked for, and a huge rejection.

They say rejection is part of the writing process and something about thick skin-

I didn’t have it Monday afternoon.

The little Rhino I framed as a reminder to put on this thick skin must have ran off… and I felt in that moment he must have ran off with my books impaled on his horn –disappearing into the jungle with my dreams. The End.


But then two things happened…

One, my incredible husband sent me a text offering me a different perspective on the situation, one that looked a lot more like hope instead of loss.

Two, he had been working for months to surprise me for my fortieth birthday with a website. A beautiful little home out there on the web for my blog, my books, and my art. He even designed the most fantastic logo for me.

These two things gave me the push to keep going.

I couldn’t let that Rhino run off like that, the little creature with the thick skin that I needed and my books that I had worked so hard on. I wiped away the tears, pulled out my folder from my SCBWI Miami conference and wrote a query to an editor on Tuesday.

Just to be sure about my determination, the Rhino stared me down again on Saturday testing me when I got my official end of contract letter in the mail. I held my ground this time and didn’t crumble.

I told my writing partner and best friend about how I had taken that writerly photo, when I found my agent, the one where I sat at the table and proudly signed my contract. What about the end of a thing contract? We don’t see those posts or photographs. But I have that piece of paper too. I’ve thought about hanging it above my writing desk…

Somehow this contract feels important right now. It seems like it needs its own place of honor.

It carries with it invaluable lessons I’ve learned on this writing journey. It connected me to people and an agency who believed in my work. It connected me to other writers on their own journeys, women who I now get to share my work in progress with, and now call friends. It taught me who I am and who I am not. It taught me to trust that God is with me in this whole process and his timing is perfect. It taught me to believe in myself and my writing goals.

This Dreamer will keep on.


Good Things for your Writing Heart:

Here are few good quotes from some books I’ve just finished reading– A punch in the arm from those with much more experience in this whole process! Just what I needed. What about you?


“…we can either walk away from the cliff’s edge or take an audacious risk. When those moments come, we can find ourselves paralyzed with fear, crippled by self-doubt, or overly concerned with the prospect of failure. But if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that when we exercise our audacity, worlds of possibility open up.”

I’m Possible by Jeremy Cowart


“Rejection is a fact of writing life. If you are still unpublished, you probably suffer from the misconception that publication in and of itself will cure everything that ails you. But the pain of rejection doesn’t stop the day a contract arrives…”

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner


“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affection.”

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

Stephen King | On Writing –A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


“If you can stop getting involved emotionally in a system that doesn’t make much sense, if you can stop taking personally what doesn’t actually have to do with you–then you can begin to choose realistic goals and work toward them. Writing itself will be as pleasurable as ever. But publication will stop being the end of a fairy tale, for you or others.”

The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control – And Live to Tell the Tale by Alice Mattison

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