Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Decade as a Full-Time Author

Guest blogger Holly Schindler discusses the importance of family support.

When I got my master’s in ’01, my mom invited me to stay home and devote my full-time efforts to getting a writing career off the ground (my lifelong dream). I figured it’d take a year or so to write a novel, then it’d sell (I was lucky enough to have placed poetry, short fiction, and literary critique in journals when I was in college, and was under the grand delusion that selling a manuscript would be a breeze for me), and in oh, two years or so, I’d have money in the bank, and I’d be off and running.

Okay, seriously. You can stop laughing now.

The truth is that it took seven and a half years just to get my first acceptance. In that time, my friends from college finished up PhDs, started teaching, doing research, became professionals. I often felt like all I had was a deep gash in the drywall where I’d spent months upon months banging my head against it.

And, let’s face it: I had guilt.

I cringe at the stereotypical portrait of the kid who’s living at home: the slacker who lays on the couch, playing video games, letting Mom do laundry, mooching, no sense of direction to speak of. That certainly has never been my life. I feel that your family is your family, regardless of what it consists of: your spouse and your children, or your siblings and parents. I participated in everything going on in my home: the upkeep, the repairs, the lawn, the floor-laying, the painting, the grocery shopping, the meal-planning…My office butts up against the laundry room, and, yes, I’ve always done my fair share of the laundry, as well

Still, though: the guilt. You aren’t a responsible adult without feeling the sting of not contributing financially (I did teach piano and guitar lessons, and everything I made went to paying off what few bills I had—I got out of college with no student loans). Still, though, no matter how much I contributed, I often felt it wasn’t enough. I butted heads with my mom about me finding work out of the house (she always talked me out of it). Instead, I worked, as we’d agreed, on my manuscripts: I created a floor-to-ceiling stack of them in those seven and a half years.

During those years, I learned to balance my writing with the comings and goings of a household. I can fix a lawnmower with one hand and outline a novel with another. I also learned that my greatest first reader is also the same person who insisted I stay home to write in the first place (Mom’s a great titler, too—she was the first to suggest the titles for both my published books). And when the triumphs finally arrived—selling a book, seeing my first book on a store shelf, getting the starred review, receiving a few lit prizes—my mom and brother, who had been my support, my sounding board for project ideas, my first set of eyes, took pride in it, too. They had a hand in it.

Come on—getting started is beyond rough. Everybody has to have some sort of help when they set out to forge a writing career. Now, when I step inside a library or a bookstore, I think there’s not just one person behind each of those titles, but a whole group of them—in addition to the writer, there’s some combination of parent, sibling, partner, spouse, etc., who supported that writer as they got started. It’s pretty incredible, when you stop to think about it…

Holly is the creator and moderator of Smack Dab in the Middle, a group blog whose contributors are authors of middle-grade books, and the author of Playing Hurt and A Blue so Dark.
Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown.  But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea ’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort.  There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past.  As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home.  Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.


  1. Great post, Holly! How wonderful you've had the support of your family, allowing you the freedom to be creative and write the books you wanted to write. That's why I love reading the "acknowledgments" section in books: you often get a sense of those people behind the scenes who helped make it happen. I know my books wouldn't have been published without the support of my husband, who encouraged me to leave my day job and write!

  2. Thanks, Christine! (I love those "acknowledgements" sections, too...) And thanks, Tracy, for suggesting this favorite guest post of all time!