This is the inside cover of one of my Sweet Pickles books. Remember them? Handyman camel, that messy goose, the kangaroo who was always up to no good…
A few years ago I was reading one of my old books to my young daughter and a square of paper fluttered onto the floor. It said,
Samantha Hall, author
The color had faded away from the edges of the paper, but I recognized it from a square stack of papers that used to live on my childhood desk. The early attempts at cursive were also mine, the signature of “Samantha Hall” as fancy as my eight year old hand could manage, the name clearly my nom de plume.
There’s something unnerving about unexpectedly encountering your childhood self.
There’s also something heartbreaking about facing your unrealized childhood dreams, your own child on your lap.
There I was, thirty, avoiding answering emails from high school friends asking what I had ended up doing with my life. How would I tell them that in college I longed to be a parent and so studied education, that in graduate school I wanted to get on with living and so stopped after my master’s degree and got married, that while working as a teacher I cried every time a friend got pregnant, and that after becoming a mom I sat in my home and looked at my daughter wondering what happened to the big ideas of that little girl who sat and practiced her penmanship on that square stack of rainbow colored papers? I couldn’t tell them any of that. So I deleted their emails.
Then something happened – desperation. The five year stay-at-home plan was coming to a close and so with one year left until I had to return to the classroom having to put my five year old in before school care and my three year old in full time daycare, I started this blog. The goal I shared with the world was to start a freelance writing career and make enough money to contribute to the household bills. The goal I quietly shared with myself was to find the voice that I knew was hiding somewhere deep inside. I took a deep breath and wrote about my car and my couch. I prayed. I pressed publish. And I waited.
This blogging world was good to me and I quickly became passionate about what I saw happening all around me. Women were connecting via social media and through this new platform finding ways to finally “have it all.” I wanted to know more and began to interview hundreds of women collecting data about their childhood dreams, the messages they received about having it all when they were little girls. I queried literary agents. I blogged about the topic I was calling Together We Rise. I announced to my husband that I would have a book published by the time I was thirty-five. Suddenly I was able to face myself again – not just my thirty year old self, but that eight year old future author. I attacked this new goal with naive bravado, responding to interested literary agents, writing sample chapters and book outlines.
And then the project fell flat. The first few interested agents turned out to not be that into me, and simultaneously my social media marketing business began to grow. I told my dream to wait, that I needed to take the offers for work while they were being made because certainly this Twitter Party thing wouldn’t last. I gave it six months and then I could get back to what I really wanted to do – write.
From 2009 to now my business has grown 600%. I have not sent a query letter to a literary agent since the fall of 2008.
In the summer of 2010 an editor from a major publishing house reached out to me to see if I had ever considered writing a book. Yes, yes I had. I had considered only thousands of times ever since I was old enough to read a book. In fact, I had already written a whole children’s book series, written my memoirs David Sedaris style complete with drowning puppies and squirrels’ tails on bicycles, written an inspirational tome for women sitting at home with their children and wondering what had become of their own childhood dreams…all in my head. I said yes, I would like to hear more about a potential parenting book. I signed the papers when a literary agent came to me after hearing that a publisher was interested in me. And then I got back to the day in, day out of running a business by myself with only sixteen hours a week of childcare, the closest family four hours away, and my husband out of the house for eleven hours on a good day. I periodically exchanged emails with the editor. I worked on the book outline in stolen moments. I heard almost not at all from the opportunistic agent who sat waiting for the contract offer she could negotiate.
2010 became 2011. 2011 turned to 2012. June approached, work began to slow to a simmer, childcare became a bit more organized, and I heard that voice again. That little girl who thought Samantha was a much prettier name than Amy. That little girl who thought the best job in the whole world would be writing books. So I emailed that publisher…sorry I’ve been out of touch…no longer with that absentee agent…would love to send that proposal to you if you’re still interested.
I’m sorry, we are no longer publishing parenting books. Best of luck shopping the proposal around to other publishers. You should definitely try to connect with an agent again.
I watched my dream-put-on-hold flutter away from me, like that faded square of paper floating out of the book and onto the ground at my child’s feet…
The thing about dreams is that when you finally admit that they’re there, it hurts when you watch them slip away.
~ Update ~