Riders and Friends of Riders, meet Lizbeth Selvig, winner of RWA’s 2010 Golden Heart for single title contemporary romance. For the past two years Liz has been serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, the Twin Cities chapter of Romance Writers of America. She’s a terrific writer and a good friend. Heeere’s Liz!
Thank you, Kathleen, for inviting me, it’s such an honor to be here. RWTTD is hosted by my favorite authors, many of whom also happen to be MFW chapter mates. To be asked to guest blog with people I’ve admired for such a long time is like getting invited to play for a day in the major leagues. It’s more than cool. It’s a little bit of a magical moment.
And magic is my topic today.
When I first got serious about writing, I read that success in this business takes 10 percent talent, 80 percent perseverance, and 10 percent pixie dust. “Isn’t that just the cutest sound bite to trot out when I’m richer than Nora?” I thought.
I didn’t believe the formula. I was a journalist, darn it. I’d been paid to write. Paid to edit. Not that I had delusions writing a novel would be easy—I had that much lack of arrogance. But surely my skill would wow editors and agents without the help of Tinkerbell or her pouch full of pixie dust.
Well, clap your hands for Tink with me, because I’m no longer that stuck-up, I-can-do-this-without-magic-thank-you-very-much writer. After this summer, I believe with all my heart in pixie dust.
The first sprinkling of it fell last November. It was a crazy month, and I didn’t get to half my planned writing projects. But, somehow, I got a Golden Heart entry ready and hauled it to the post office on time. That was miracle enough, but some of the dust must have wafted into my attitude. “This is a good story. This one could final.” That’s honestly all I kept thinking.
Which was seriously not like me. I’m that kind of backward-thinking self preservationist who always prepares for disappointment—as if imagining the worst will make it sting less if it happens. But not this time! This time, I was a model of highly un-Minnesotan-like optimism. The trade off for this positive attitude was that I was a pathetic wreck the two days before GH finalists were announced. I’m embarrassed now I was so loony, but (cue the tinkling chimes) pixie dust sprinkled over my silly self and, I was a Golden Heart finalist.
One new Website and two local paper interviews later, the RWA convention introduced me to my 60+ fellow finalists. It’s not just being nice to say I believed any one of us deserved a GH win. I sat at my banquet table on Awards Night without a speech ready (preparing for disappointment) until, at the last minute, something made me give myself a lecture: “Listen you, you could win and you’d better know what to say.” I’d barely finished writing seven bullet points on a paper scrap when they called my name!
I went home with a Golden Heart necklace for my book “Songbird,” six requests for queries and/or partials, and my sense of optimism intact. Interviews with two A-list agents had gone perfectly. One said she was looking for exactly what I was writing. When I queried her, she replied with, “This reminds me of (insert NYT author here).” I was convinced the magic dust had done its job.
But the pixies weren’t finished throwing stuff quite yet. I received an unusual e-mail I didn’t believe at first was real. Ostensibly from a senior agent at an established NY agency, most of her sig line was missing, and hers was not the sender’s e-mail. Needless to say, I went into research mode. To my astonishment and delight, she was not only legitimate, but had found and contacted me through my Website—after her own search.
All my A-list agents from Orlando, including the one who’d compared me to a NYT bestseller, declined offers of representation. But, my “accidental agent,” the delightful Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh & Otis,—who also happens to be named Liz, also loves dogs, also was slightly disappointed that I’d taken two doggy characters from my GH book, and also loves to talk on the phone—said she would be thrilled work with me.
You tell me. Perseverance? Or Pixie Dust?
The Golden Heart contest has changed my life. My 10 percent talent gave me the courage to write a book. My 80 percent perseverance got me to polish and send it in. But without that pixie dust, would I have gotten a set of judges that liked the story? Would my new agent (!) have found my Website? Would I be in the midst of awesome revisions and feel confident I’m on the right road to publication?
I don’t think so.
You might call it luck. Or guardian angels. Or kismet, karma, or the power of positive thinking. The pixie dust used on me was, I think, a combo of all those ingredients. I also believe I helped create my own magic. I made the Website, I sent the entry in … I just don’t know who mixed everything together or who started sprinkling it last November.
What I do know is it’s super powerful stuff!
So–when have you felt the power of what could only be pixie dust in your life? What do you do to help make your own magic?