Authors who are "Differently Expertised"...

Authors who are "Differently Expertised"...

17 November 2011

JUMPING ON SOME BANDWAGONS by Carol Costa



I sold my first  story in April, 1980 to a family magazine in Canada. I was elated that I had become a “professional writer”.  My second sale a few months later was to the same magazine and this was a nonfiction piece about a church group that helped
immigrants adjust to life in the USA. 

My business background was in accounting, taxes, and real estate and as I saw studied market listings, I realized that newspapers and magazines were always looking for financial and business articles.  I came across an ad for the Phoenix Business Journal and contacted them about a story on foreclosures. The editor called me and asked for the article. This was a weekly paper that also covered news in Tucson where I was based.

After publishing my first article, the editor asked me to be the Tucson correspondent for the Phoenix paper. This meant I had to write at least one article a week.  Some weeks I was assigned to do interviews for the paper. Some weeks I had to come up with my own ideas. Other than the fact that I was earning a weekly income as a writer, the best part of this job was that I discovered that I could turn out quality copy in a timely manner.
The focus and discipline I had to use in my day job  carried over into my writing career.

Earning money was great, but I really wanted to write fiction. I attended a one day conference  with a panel conducted by romance authors. I learned it was
the best selling fiction genre. I had read confession magazines as a teenager and  had recently sold a story to one of them about twins having different fathers. 

So, I joined the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America and was promptly elected treasurer. { With an accounting background, I have been treasurer of every
organization I ever joined.}  I didn’t really read romances, but I decided to write one.

Every night after dinner, I sat at my typewriter and forced myself to write ten pages
of the novel called Sweet Sacrifice. I had gotten the idea for it from a labor dispute that  occurred at a large company where I was working. I finished the book and started sending it around to publishers. I got basically the same response from each one:
“the storyline overshadows the romance”. Then, I got another idea and wrote a second romance novel. It didn’t sell either.

About this time, my church was working on their musical/variety show. One of the people involved in that came to me and asked me to write a comedy skit based on
an idea he had about vampires. I wrote the skit, my first piece for the stage. The night it was performed, I was standing back stage, holding my breath. I knew where
the audience was supposed to laugh and was afraid they wouldn’t, but they did. They continued to laugh in all the right places and I was hooked on live theater. All these years later, I still believe that live theater is the only place where a writer can get an
instant response to his or her work.

Now, I started to write plays and found that much easier than writing novels.
With a play you don’t need to write a lot of description and narrative. You just set the scene and the dialogue you write for your characters does the rest.

I joined the Dramatists Guild and began marketing my first full-length play, Death Insurance, to theaters and contests and collected many rejections. Then, the play placed in a contest and because it did, a New York agency that handled theater projects asked to read it. 

By this time I had collected many rejections for my short stories, novels and plays, but
the one I got from this New York play agent was crushing. The letter said that the head of the agency and two of her assistants had read my play and they all agreed it was not
good enough to be produced. To date, that remains as the worst rejection I have ever received  because three people agreed that my work was not good.

I remember sitting at my desk and reading that letter over and over again. Then, I decided that I had two choices. I could either give up on the play or I could look for another market for it.  I opened the Dramatists Guild Directory and started looking through it. I found an off-off Broadway theater that said they liked mysteries.
I sent Death Insurance out to them the very next day.

A few weeks later, my youngest daughter and I went to the movies. When we got home, my husband ran outside to meet us. “A woman called from New York,” he said. “She wants to produce your play. She said to call her back tonight no matter how late it is.”

Two months later, I went to New York to see my play performed at the Royal Court
Theater. Seeing my play come to life with professional actors was an amazing experience. The ending of the play was supposed to be a big surprise for the audience. Again, I held my breath waiting for the audience to react. There was an audible gasp and I knew that moment was worth all the rejections I had ever gotten and all the rejections I would ever get.

The big lesson I learned and one that all writers must hang onto is that you have to believe in yourself and your work. Rejections are subjective. Don’t ever give up on
yourself or your writings. Success is based on the following rule, “You never fail, until you stop trying.”

And tomorrow I’ll tell you how I finally sold those romance novels with plots that overshadowed the love stories.


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