Suddenly she was wise Gandalf, offering me, the Bilbo Baggins in this dorky, but oh-so-me metaphor,
the adventure of a lifetime. I was too intrigued to say no, too frightened to say yes. “Think about it,” she urged sensing my indecision as only a close friend can.
Like Bilbo, I returned to my quiet, comfortable life. Being a mom, wife, and teacher felt familiar, natural, and easy. Why shake things up? But just when I started to push back the restless feeling her comment had shaken loose, to stop imagining myself as a published author (what was I thinking?!) we saw each other again at a family function.
Since we married into a family with seven brothers and one sister, family get-togethers are a wonderful
given and happen on nearly a weekly basis. I’d always looked forward to seeing her at them, yet this time I felt some anxiety. What if she asked me again? What would I say? Would I disappoint her if I didn’t want to give writing a try? Most of all … would I disappoint myself?
But with the kids bustling around us like the dwarves in Bilbo’s house, there wasn’t time to think or give into fears. When she asked me if I’d given it thought, I blurted out that yes, I would like to write. It’d always been a dream of mine- an adventure I’d been too afraid to attempt. But with Joanne’s encouragement I penned my first novel, a YA paranormal romance that she never failed to check in on, read over, and offer her expert advice and support.
The sense of accomplishment I felt could only be akin to Bilbo’s feeling when he filched the dragon’s golden cup. I’d done it! Written an entire novel! Followed by the sinking, uh-oh feeling of ‘now what have I unleashed?’ Suddenly I had a new set of expectations, goals, and worries with which to contend. But whenever I was ready to give up, Joanne would be there with a quick ‘Hey- how are you doing?’ email, a phone call, or a shopping splurge to nearby Burlington, VT. Instead of listening to the voice that said, “You can’t”, I began hearing her voice say, “You can and you will.” She made it seem inevitable. Dared I hope? Believe?
Little did I know, Joanne was about to become more than my mentor. During a retail therapy trip, (So much perspective is gained from finding that perfect dress!) she mentioned that she would be interested in writing young adult fiction with me. Story ideas, something we always enjoyed chatting about, suddenly became about what we would like to write together. As romance fans and writers (my paranormal has a dark romance), YA contemporary romance was an easy genre to pick. We also loved
the idea of setting the story at summer camp, home to many first loves. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we met at her house and had such a good time planning the novel. I’m amazed at the amount of work we produced given how much laughing- and eating- we did! (Joanne makes the best snacks and I must have gained ten pounds that month thanks to her sour cream, dill and pastrami dip!).
Our work sessions felt exactly like any other time we got together- socially or professionally. No stress, no pressure, just the energizing buzz that occurs when collaborating with someone whose ideas you deeply respect and admire. We followed the motto posted on our YA author website, http://www.jkrock.net, live life, laugh lots, and love forever. Working from a positive place infused our writing with the same energy. After only a couple meetings, we’d settled on the title for what we knew would be the first in a series, CAMP BOYFRIEND, crafted unique characters, shared camp-related research, and outlined our chapters.
Everything we discussed was typed by one and emailed to the other. That’s how we were able to keep straight whose parents were divorced, who had hazel eyes, who was allergic to peanut butter, where the sign-up for activities would be located and all the millions of details that, when passing chapters back and forth, we needed to keep consistent. Writing together this way seemed so easy, natural, and right. I never doubted that we would create something to be proud of and have lots of fun in the process. Writing became a joy that, best of all, I could share with a best friend.
As Joanne says, “A partnership is like a marathon, when one starts to slow down, the other picks up
the baton.” And that’s what we’ve done for each other…when family needs take precedence, the other steps up… when other writing or teaching obligations arise, our partner is there.
Writing can be a lonely process (Thank goodness for Twitter- I’m @karenrock5 btw- and my wonderful local SCBWI group and incredible former colleagues, mentors, and gifted children's authors Marjorie Light and Kate Messner) Working with a writing partner means never feeling alone. The process is the best part and publishing is the icing on the cake- an opportunity that came our way when Patricia Riley, the head of Spencer Hill Press’ new Contemporary line remembered reading our manuscript, submitted by our extremely talented agent, Barbara Rosenberg of The Rosenberg Group. She’d seen it while at another publishing house and with the superhuman-type memory that only the best editors have, she recalled liking it enough to ask her new senior editor, Kate Kaynak to take a look. They agreed it would make a great book to launch their new Contemporary line and the rest is history. We look forward to working with these
amazing women as we continue the series with them.
I can’t help but take out my Spencer Hill contract every once in a while and think, “My Precious”- but
not in that ‘Bad Bilbo’, creepy, hissy way. More in the ‘oh my goodness how did something so amazing happen to me’ way. And then I remember. Joanne. The wizard charging forth on her white horse wielding a giant pen with the words- GO FOR IT emblazoned on its sides. (At least that’s how I see her. Looking at her website photo, you might see her as a supermodel, which she was, until she refused to consider gum a carb and left her agency.)
I’ve never regretted a step I’ve taken on this journey with Joanne… one that has also ended with my individual sale of THE FOREVER WISH to Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. All in all, I’ve sold four books this year because of my mentor, sister-in-law, and dearest friend along with the wonderful insight, support, and hard work of our agent Barbara
Rosenberg! While Joanne is still there to support me- as I am for her-she’s taken off the training wheels and given me the push I need. My old life no longer feels comfortable. And that’s a good thing. Now I want to go faster and farther…to see where the road takes me.