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Go ahead, I can take it. I think…

by Sherri Stone

There I was, my first time at an ACFW conference on appointment day. I had two. One for a fiction project and one for non-fiction. The fiction appointment went well and was very encouraging and helpful. Time for the non-fiction appointment and I clutched by precious baby tightly and took that long walk to the end of the hall. After greeting my appointment person we sat face to face as I handed over my proposal complete with pretty picture on the front. I launched into my well rehearsed speech and then it happened. My captive audience of one yawned. Twice.

I was quickly assured that it wasn’t me, it just happened to be right after lunch. True, but still…

It wasn’t the response I wanted, and it wasn’t just the yawn. I wanted this person to love my topic as much as I did. What I got were several reasons why this would never fly in today’s market. Along with that I got some education about the publishing business, the current market, and some other options to consider if I really wanted to move ahead with this project. Finally the appointment was over and I walked out trying to smile but feeling extremely conflicted.

SherriStone post

My logical self was thinking:
• That was good experience.
• They’re probably right.
• That wasn’t personal
• I could learn a lot from this.

My emotional self was thinking:
• Thank God that’s over!
• AWKWARD!
• Oh yeah?
• If they had just listened they would have been as excited as I am – was. Thanks!
• I need some chocolate! NOW!
• What was I thinking?
• I’m such an idiot!
• Where’s that chocolate?!

The more I hear the stories of other writers the more I’m realizing that this kind of dichotomy is not uncommon. I will not ever want to hear criticism. I may understand the value of it and recognize the necessity of it, but there will always be a battle between my brain and my heart – or is it my pride?

Months down the road from that appointment I continue to struggle with conflicting feelings. I can still use that experience to get my knickers in a knot when I want to have a pity party and feel sorry for myself, but mostly I try to remember the things that went well and those that didn’t, and learn from both. I cannot pursue excellence in writing or in life if I am unwilling to be teachable. For me that often means taking the constructive criticism silently without giving in to the urge to argue or explain myself.

When I finished writing my first book and started to pursue publishing I thought the hard part was over. Ignorance was truly bliss but ignorance will never help me to achieve my goal of being published one day. So, I will be teachable first at the feet of Jesus, and then at the feet of those who have gone before me.

And keep the chocolate handy!


Sherri Stone is a medical social worker with hospice. She is learning about fiction writing, but is also collaborating with her hospice chaplain on a book about the hospice experience. This is her second year with ACFW. Connect with her at www.sherristone.net or http://www.facebook.com/sherrilynnestone or on Twitter @sherristone2.

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