by Jennie Bentley
As you’re reading this, a really big machine somewhere is spitting out pages of my first book, Fatal Fixer-Upper, scheduled for release on November 4th, 2008 (and available right now for preorder).
Yep, that’s right: we’ve gone to press. I breezed through copyedits sometime in May, doing only what was necessary to get the pages back to my editor before boarding a plane to Europe. I paid for that when the final page proofs arrived in July, and I discovered mistakes I should have caught earlier. So I had to grovel and apologize and ask if I could please change this and that, because it really wouldn’t be a good idea to print the book with mistakes in it.
Anyway, in the middle of all this, I had to write a page of acknowledgements. You know what I’m talking about: that page at the beginning or end of the book giving thanks to all the people who have helped me along the way and made me the brilliant and successful creature that I am. My parents, who gave birth to me. My first-grade teacher, who recognized my amazing talent at the tender age of seven. My husband, who puts up with my monumental ego... My agent, my editor, my family and friends, the guys at the post office, who accepted the package with my submission in it and got it delivered where it was supposed to go. Fellow writers, fellow readers, my publicists, anyone who has ever – or will ever – review the book. God. The whole damn machine that’s New York Publishing. Everyone I’ve ever met, because as surely as death and taxes, they’ve had a finger in making me who I am today.
Writing isn’t a solitary endeavor at all, contrary to popular opinion. Everyone we interact with shapes us in some way. Our values, our outlook, our thought processes (or lack thereof) are all courtesy of someone we’ve run across at some point, whether the experience was a good or a bad one. And on a purely pedestrian basis, the people we live with play a huge role in how easy or hard it is for us to plant our butts in the chair and actually write every day. I have a household full of people and pets, all of whom have needs, and I owe them humongous thanks for putting up with me and letting me do what I love, even if that means that my wonderful husband is the sole breadwinner in the family, and the boys get hot dogs and frozen chicken nuggets all too often, and have to share their bedrooms with dust bunnies the size of water buffalo.
Ultimately, though, there is only one person who gets the credit for my being the very small fry that I am today, as far as publishing goes. I’ve always been a writer, as far back as I can remember, but she helped me become a published writer, and for that, I owe her a debt of gratitude the size of Mt. Everest. When I told her I’d always wanted to write books, she said I could. She listened patiently as I talked her ear off about plot and character. She read and critiqued my manuscript. She sat down with me and made lists of agents I should query. She read and critiqued my query letter. When I got responses telling me I needed to tighten the book – i.e. cut the fat – she sat down with me again, and helped me revise. She made more lists of agents when I’d gone through the first ones. The agent who ended up wanting to represent me was someone she had met, and although I didn’t name-drop up front, I don’t doubt the mention of her name later made my agent think more highly of me. That's the kind of person she is.
I could go on, making lists of all the things Tasha Alexander has done for me, and the stellar advice she’s given and continues to give, but the bottom line is, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without her generosity and unselfishness. She’s been my friend and my mentor, my sounding-board and my inspiration. She’s the best role model a girl wanting to write a book could have, and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.
So what about you? Do you have someone in your life who reached out to you and made you believe you could do the impossible? Someone who walked the walk with you, to make sure you got to the finish line? Who cheered you on and convinced you to keep going when you got tired and wanted to give up? You're one of the lucky ones. Make your own acknowledgement, and tell us about them!