Friday, August 01, 2008

I'd like to thank the Academy...

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!

16 comments:

Joyce said...

What a great post! Such a nice tribute to your mentor!

I'd have to thank my wonderful critique group, The Mysterywrights: Kristine Coblitz, Mike Crawmer, Becky Mertz (aka Rebecca Drake), Brian Mullen, Sandy Stephen, and Jan Yanko. (Sandy has read entire manuscripts and helped me see what needs fixed.) They're not only cheerleaders, they WILL tell you what sucks, too. Nicely, of course.

JennieB said...

You're lucky to have so many wonderful people in your life, Joyce! Tasha has moved to Chicago, so I haven't seen her for a couple of months, and I miss her terribly. Email, though great, just isn't the same as sitting on the same sofa, looking at one another, yabbering.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Cool topic, Jennie. My acknowledgement page was the most fun page I wrote. It was also the easiest because it came from the heart.

No wonder Tasha is your role model. Just read her blog over at the Good Girls.

JD Rhoades said...

Well said, Jennie. Tasha is the epitome of kindness, generosity, and grace under pressure. Hell of a writer, too. In short, Tasha RULEZ!

jennieB said...

Thanks, guys! Yep, Tasha's the man, all right. Sort of...

Tory said...

Even though I haven't published anything yet, I do tend to write the "acknowledgements" section in my head. Got to be prepared, right?

I always thank my therapists. (Yes, I have had far too many.) Even the bad ones, who make me appreciate the one I have now!

P.S. I got thanking my parents out of the way in my dissertation. Given they've both passed on, I figure once is enough.

Tasha Alexander said...

*sniff*

You absolutely made me cry; thank you. It's been an honor to be your friend. And you're such a talented writer----I've loved watching you take, with grace and confidence, every step on the road to publication.

Girls' Weekend in Chicago????

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

JennieB said...

Yeah, Tory, I did mine in my head many times, too, over the years. Absolutely, you have to be prepared.

Your therapists, huh? Well, I'm sure they've all - good or bad - contributed greatly to making you who you are. Have you bumped off any of the truly horrific ones yet? In fiction, of course.

JennieB said...

Thanks, babe. Now I'm sniffing, too!

Tory said...

I've never bumped off bad therapists in fiction but I have saved a collection of "bad therapist" stories (clients are both myself and others.) Never thought of publishing them, already too much bad press in the field! Still, a collection of "the best and worst" therapy stories? Some heartwarming, others make your skin crawl? Maybe that has some promise!

JennieB said...

I love it! Tales from the couch...

Sounds like it has promise. You should write up a treatment (or whatever they call it; I've never tried to write or query anything that isn't straight fiction) and a story or two, and send it to some people. I really think it could work!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Just hopped over here from Tasha's post . . . while I didn't meet her until after I'd published my first book (I refuse to say "only") I can also vouch for her generosity of spirit, her support and her friendship.

We LOVE Tasha!

JennieB said...

Thanks for stopping by, Judy. Now that you've been here once, you'll have to come back.

No, don't say 'only'.

JT Ellison said...

Tasha should probably be awarded the "Most Generous Author" service award. I wouldn't be where I am without her either -- she gave me my first blurb!!! A truer friend one can not find.

And congrats, Jennie B, on the book. You're going to have a long future ahead of you!

JennieB said...

Thanks, JT. I appreciate your stopping by. And congrats on your second - and the re-release of your first - coming very soon!

Did I tell you how much I liked the trailer you did for '14'? Very, very creepy stuff!

JT is awesome, y'all! If you haven't read 'All the Pretty Girls' yet, get to a bookstore!

Kristine said...

Joyce...right back at ya.

Jennie, Congratulations! It's a treasure to find a mentor, especially one you can also call a friend.