Saturday, April 14, 2007

Second time around for First Efforts

The Jungle Red gang recently got a comment on our inaugural blog that was worth a second look...

Jack Bludis said...
When I saw the title, "On First Efforts," I thought it was about our VERY first efforts. At the age of 18, I sent my first story to the New Yorker ... they didn't think I was a genius. It took ten or fifteen more stories and about a hundred rejections before it got through to me that I was just an ordinary person who wanted to write.I suspect there are many others who have had a similar experience, but others who published their first and never looked back.Rosemary? Hallie? Hank? Jan? Or it just us guys who dive into it with ego and come out humble?

Ro: Maybe I shouldn't spread this around but Pushing Up Daisies is the very first thing I've ever written. Granted, I did rewrite it about 10 times - 5 or 6 times on my own and after every rejection by an agent. FYI, I didn't make changes based on any comments the agents had (only one even had anything constructive to say) I just reread and saw how I could make it better. What about the rest of you, JRs and readers? What was your first time like?

HANK:
I just looked back on that first blog--which, of course, was my first blog. Ro had practiced on her personal one, and loved it, but the rest of us were new. Now I look forward to reading it every day, checking the comments, see who's visiting and what everyone is thinking.

Anyway--to answer the actual question. The first thing I ever really wrote that got published was an essay for Rolling Stone magazine. I was the Washington editorial type at Rolling Stone for a column called "Capital Chatter" which was a compendium of cool stuff and insider stories. So I edited and collected items, fact-checked, and also wrote from time to time. (I was--23?)

And the very first was a story/essay about Susan Ford's Prom.I went to the White House, and was in the press pool that got to go to the Prom, interview guests, including Susan, if I can remember correctly, although it was more than 30 years ago. Argh.

And I remember I loved it. Writing it. Seeing it. I don't even remember who said okay, print it--Jann Wenner supposedly read everything, but we never really knew for sure.My first book is Prime Time (June 2007!!) Even though I started a different mystery in 1991 (more about the unlamented Greeskeeper in earlier posts...) Prime Time is the first I finished. But wow, I'm hunble. It was a much tougher ride than I'd ever imagined.

JAN:
Well Jack, I can safely say I was delusional at any even earlier age than you. In first grade, I wrote my first book, The Cat On the Moon, and dropped it on the street, knowing for certain a publisher would pick it up and make it a bestseller. In second grade, when I found a book on the reading shelf entitled The Cat on the Moon, I was certain I'd been plagiarized. I was too mad to actually read it, but it's a good thing I didn't have a budget for legal or I probably would have sued! Scary, huh?

9 comments:

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

The "comment deletion" above was me deleting myself. Which is about as existential as it gets. Anyway!

I just reread our very first group of comments again--and saw Tame' Kamita said she was sending out her first query! So hey--keep us posted, okay? We're all sending out good karma.

Susannah said...

The first thing I ever wrote that did -- something, anything -- was a parody: If Dorothy Were in Oz Today, a two-act play I wrote in sixth grade. Some set of judges somewhere (was it a competition? or a panel of teachers or ...? I don't remember) liked it enough to produce it that year, and I can still remember standing in the wings watching people say things I had written and thinking that was pretty cool.

This was just before I entered as a flying monkey (real moving wings!), tripped over a mic cord, and fell flat -- which swelled up my lip and made me drool for two days. Nice. So I could write in the sixth grade, but I was also a klutz. With pride cometh a fall, &tc.

Humbled, yes, and skulking about in front of mirrors every day before school. I liked boys by then. Being a "diminutive authoress" -- yikes! newspaper review! -- was no compensation for the fat lip and dribbling.

Strangely, my first paid writing job would be writing radio parody for (then) American Public Radio when I was 24. I think it interesting now that the same form came around again for me 12 years after sixth grade, albeit radio rather than live play. I have never written another play, though I still write radio in one form or another. Often advertising. Often parody.

But every time I switch genres, I find I have to start all over again in the process of pitch and query and hope. This is not a bad thing, but I have been surprised to learn what works well in one genre that doesn't transfer to others. For every small success, I have plenty of falling -- and plenty of ouching -- yet to do.

rosemary said...

Rolling Stone? You are so cool...

Lonnie Cruse said...

Great blog, ladies! Thanks for inviting me over, Hank.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Well, my first real rejection (writing-wise) was from Tiger Beat magazine when I was 11. I'd written "My Dream Wedding to Bobby Sherman" and they didn't think it was up to snuff. I was furious. I'd researched wedding gowns from the society pages of The New York Times, for criminy sake. It only served to make me think that the Tiger Beat editors were idiots.

However, ALL THE NUMBERS, was my first novel. I'd started another one first, but after 100 pages I knew it wasn't going anywhere. It did take me 7 years (and 300 or so rejections) to get this first one published though.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh,Judy. Do you still have that article? It would be so wonderful to read it...
and Susannah's Dorothy play. (Just think, if you had called it "The Wiz." Or "Wicked.") We need to read yours, too.
And as for you, Jan. We must get the real story on your book. Really, you've never checked to see if it was your book that someone swiped? We need to know.
Lonnie--so nice to hear from you!
What a treat...

Jan Brogan said...

Hey Judy,
I'm with Hank, I'd love to see the "My Dream Wedding to Bobby Sherman" article. I can't believe I never thought to write about how I had to switch favorite Monkees when it turned out Mike Nesmith was already married...

And yes Hank, I've been stewing for years, there could be millions of royalties due me!

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