Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“GLOOM, DESPAIR AND AGONY ON ME…” Dealing with One Writer’s Disappointments.

 by E.E. Kennedy

It occurred to me that some of you may not recognize the reference in the title of this piece. It’s the lyrics of a song from an old, old TV show: HEE HAW. It’s the ultimate anthem of self-pity, sung by a quartet of sobbing generic hillbillies as they hug jugs of homemade adult beverage to their chests. It's really pretty funny.
Years ago, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “a bookstore owner or a Broadway star.” As time passed, I learned that owning a bookstore meant I’d have to know and understand a little something about business and (Gasp!) math, so that was out. A little later, I learned that show business involved a whole lot of rejection. So instead, I chose to write. (Okay, I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the chandelier.)
I started small, writing commercials for a local radio station, and then for TV. I eventually graduated to an advertising agency and helped produce commercials, which along with writing them, involved lining up the location, the actors/announcers, the time of the shoot and then having the spots edited to the satisfaction of the client. There was some rejection involved in that, but not much. And it was fun. (I actually met actor Chill Wills and singer Jimmy Dean of sausage fame. You may have my autograph, if you wish.) It was, I used to say, as close to show biz as I ever wanted to get. (Another clever remark I cringe about today was that my attention span only lasted thirty to sixty seconds, so writing commercials was perfect for me!)
Fast-forward a few years through marriage and motherhood to an empty nest and the desire to write books I enjoyed, namely cozy mysteries. “How hard can it be?” I thought. 
I’ve enjoyed writing my books. I get to play a god in an imaginary world, putting words in people’s mouths and giving them adventures I could never experience in real life. As it turned out, my attention span had stretched over the years and I could now craft a book over sixty thousand words! 
But that was the easy part, as every writer will tell you. The next step is to get published. These days, an industry based on the hard work of writers makes it close to impossible for new ones to get heard and seen by publishers. Notice I said “close to." It can be done, but it requires dogged determination, faith in your “product” (your book) and I believe, guidance from Heaven. Methods include: networking at conferences, oodles of submissions, entering contests, and just plain combing the Internet for opportunities. 
Something important to remember is that the book business is just that: a business. It’s difficult for a writer who has poured his/her heart and soul into a work to remember that the publisher who accepts your book is taking a chance on you. So, for that matter, are the bookstore owners who stock it. (Talk about coming full circle!) Take a look at the marked-down books at the remainder table where booksellers are probably taking a loss. It’s necessary to cut them all a little emotional slack. 
Speaking personally, I’ve never made any best-seller list and (after my copywriting days) certainly have never made anything approaching a living wage with writing. But it’s still fun, and in the course of my adventures I have discovered another passion: mentoring. Quite by accident or Providential design, I offered to give a talk on mysteries at a community center and was persuaded to turn it into a month of weekly lessons on writing. At the end of the month, the attendees asked to continue. We listen to each other’s work, suggest tweaks and generally encourage each other. In the past five years or so, members of our group have turned out quite a few published pieces and several books. We're a blessing to each other!
But back to the subject of this piece: disappointment. And yes, I’ve had some: a contest that cost $100 to enter that was a waste of coins; an infinitely patient publisher that has decided that they can no longer publish any more books in the Miss Prentice series; attendance at a recent international mystery conference where I felt like an invisible goldfish in Shamu's tank; membership in numerous writers’ associations that have only served as tax write-offs and a contracted job that fell through due to creative differences. “Gloom, despair and agony on me…”
But this is Grownup Land, people. This is where you climb out of the Slough of Despond (look it up), take a shower and begin once again to trudge along that familiar creative road. 
Remember all those who have gone before despite the following rejections:

F. Scott Fitzgerald: "You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character."
Louise May Alcott: “Stick to teaching.”
Rudyard Kipling: “You just don’t know how to use the English language.”
Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication.
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girlwas rejected 15 times before publication.
Madeline L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times before publication. 
And J.K. Rowling was told,“Don’t quit your day job.” 

Dear reader, lest you think I'm still tearfully wallowing in the mire with a jug of moonshine, I can announce that there's good news on my horizon. The first of my Miss Prentice series, IRREGARDLESS OF MURDER, is about to be released (by Sheaf House) as an audio book. Check for the title on Amazon Audible! 
See? I'm not really sad!

By the way, if you leave a comment or question below, along with your EMAIL ADDRESS, your name will be put in a hat to win an eBook version of any of the four Miss Prentice mysteries:
Irregardless of Murder 
Death Dangles a Participle
Murder in the Past Tense
 or Incomplete Sentence


  1. I'm so disappointed the Miss Prentice books won't continue!! And I definitely remember Hee Haw! Writing is a tough business, but writers love doing it!

  2. I absolutely love the Miss Prentice books, and I love your writing in general. Next on my to buy list is the audio book. Thank for this interview.

  3. Ellen, I have enjoyed all four of your Miss Prentice books. Many of us have been driven to indie-publishing, only to find out that was simply one more destination on the road God led us to. And I've enjoyed hearing about your ride--probably a lot more than you did while you were living it.

  4. I do remember Hee Haw! I listen to audio books all the time. Thank you for a chance to win. lhanberry1(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. I am not familiar with your books, but love your sense of humor, so would love to read them. I, too, remember Hee Haw!

  6. Hi Ellen, I do remember Hee Haw and I've been known to burst into song with "GLOOM, DESPAIR AND AGONY ON ME…”! (Those nearby were also subjected to those feelings also!) I am thankful that you've persisted and congratulations on your audio book.

  7. You know I love your books! It's time to read them for the fourth time! Since I've never heard any audio books, I'd love to win these I can try them out! Great prize! And, I remember Hee Haw but, I never watched it.

  8. I remember HeeHaw with much fondness! Some wonderful TV there! I am really sorry they decided to stop publishing your Miss Prentice series. They might just find out if was their loss. They are creeps. You are a wonderful author. I can hardly wait to get your audible version of Irregardless!

    1. Oh, yes, ReadingMama922 at gmail dot com.
      Debbie Rhoades

  9. Enjoyed the article and would love to win one of the ebooks.