November 17, 2014

So.... Last year I failed.

So. I have just finished writing my fourth book. I submitted it to my agent today. It is my first attempt at fiction. I enjoyed writing it. I just finished re-reading it and I was excited to find out what happened. Which was odd, because I knew. But I think it is a good sign.

Now, those of you who are familiar with my career might be scratching your heads. Hasn't she only written two books? When My Husband Does the Dishes and The Little Book of Anxiety?

Well, no. Those are the books that have been published. I wrote my third book last year. It is still sitting in my computer.

My third book was a memoir about grief. It was the story of my sister and I, intertwined with another painful episode in my life. The four publishers who saw it all said it was beautifully written. None of them would publish it. They said it was too sad and that they couldn't market a book about grief.

Getting that news was one of the lowest points of my life. Not the absolute lowest, obviously; I mean, hey, I've written a memoir about grief! I know what low moments look like! But it was pretty grim. I was fairly recently separated, and struggling to build a new life alone. I had taken a risk in writing a different kind of book, one which wasn't funny, or light, or easy to read. And I had taken time away from doing income-generating work, which was even more of an issue now that I was a single mum.

And I was used to success. My other two books were snapped up. I was always deeply grateful for my good fortune in being published, but I honestly never imagined that this third book wouldn't go the same way. I thought it would be a best seller. I thought it would soar. Instead I was told it wouldn't be published.

I was crushed. Crushed. I mean, temporarily broken. I sobbed non-stop for about thirty hours. I was beyond devastated. All that work, all that love, all that faith, gone to waste. It was a kick in the solar plexus. I was winded. I was inconsolable.

And then I finished crying, and I got up, and I got on with my life. And, once the dust had settled, I started another book.

I never mentioned my Grief Book (as I think of it) because I was ashamed. I was ashamed of the failure. But I'm not ashamed anymore. I'm not ashamed because I've picked myself up and tried again, and I'm happy with what I've written, and I'm hoping for good things.

And you know what? Maybe one day the Grief Book will be published. Maybe I'll self publish it and I'll sell a billion copies. Maybe I'll self publish it, and only one hundred people will read it, but out of those one hundred people, ten are deeply moved. I don't know. Life is long. There are many options ahead.

Keep trying, is what I'm saying. Keep pushing forward. You will have failures, you will have roadblocks, you will have bitter disappointments. But they fade, and you are left with the challenges and joys of today.

I hope my agent likes my new book. I hope it goes far. And if it doesn't, I will give it all up and get a job as a barista.

Or I'll write another book.

Yeah. Probably that.

92 comments:

  1. You can't imagine how much that just helped me get my head around something.

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  2. I'm SO glad. Then it was worth writing x

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  3. Oh honey. How freaking shitty. Yet look at you today sending off another manuscript. You are awesome and brave and I need to take a leaf out of your book xx

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  4. You didn't fail, Kerri. You haven't found the right publishers. They couldn't see the potential a book like that has to help people. Keep the faith. It will be published one day! I, for one, look forward to reading it.

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  5. The first thing that came to mind when I read this - you haven't failed. Because I bet The Grief Book helped you work through your feelings and be close to your sister again. You are very brave and it is just in a holding bay (your computer) until the right time comes along. Thank you for sharing this xx

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  6. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Any perceived failure is just a stepping stone on the path. Keep moving forward xxxx

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  7. this is exactly what I was going to say. The right publisher is out there. I too look forward to reading it.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this K. It's so important (yet rare) that people share their 'failures' as much as their successes (even though the timing of this one for you was kinda super shitty!) What I love about the world of writing these days is that we get to take risks with our manuscripts that publishers can't. I have no doubt you will share your beautiful manuscript with the world and that it will be as impactful as your other books xx

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  9. Fingers crossed for you Kerri. And there's no such thing as failure. You have so many successes that you can't even see yet. You will hun x

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  10. Hello there, Kerri.

    How annoying that the publishing industry is so damn myopic.

    If it was the early 80's, and that book was a band, you would have been signed.

    (Sorry, watched the Countdown thingy on Auntie last night)

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  11. Try another publisher?

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  12. Kathy www.yinyangmother.comNovember 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Good on you Kerri - for writing this and for writing your grief book, and for being brave to write fiction after having your 'different' grief book (temporarily) overlooked by those publishers. I have a memoir on my computer that is probably too sad and probably won't be published either, but I'm still working on considering myself a success.

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  13. And you ARE. Completing a book is a big deal. I know that now xxxxx

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  14. I might. At some point. Sadly, the Aust industry is pretty small.

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  15. Ha! I was at The Final Countdown!!! So a very apt analogy x

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  16. I was re-reading your book last night. For the THIRD time. That was part of what prompted this post xxx

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  17. You are so impressive yourself. No leaves necessary x

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  18. Aw. Well that's made my week. And it's only Monday xxx

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  19. I want to read your grief book! And thanks for the post—it's such wise advice.

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  20. I want to read your Grief Book. I have a Grief Book of my own inside me and it makes me sad to read that publishers don't want to publish sad books. I guess I have to make it a Survival Book. I really hope to read yours one day, Kerri.

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  21. After struggling with grief issues myself for the past 18 months, this is one book I would have picked up and not put down. I am not a wordsmith, yet I attempted to put my own thoughts onto paper and I didn't make it beyond the first few paragraphs. I cannot imagine what it would have taken to complete an entire book Xx Maybe Kleenex needs to branch off into publishing?! The world needs sad books.

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  22. I bet your grief book would do better than the publishers gave it credit for (I mean I know they're supposed to be the experts and all but if it was beautifully written then I know for sure I'd buy it). My husband lost his brother 4 years ago and we're still all bumbling through that one. Might be nice to read about what it feels like for somebody else - oddly comforting.
    Anyway, you should never have been ashamed, silly. You have lots of support. You're brave. Much braver than me, that's for sure :) Putting yourself out there like that is huge! I admire that greatly - from one Kez to another ;)
    Also, I am not lying when I say your little book of anxiety really really changed my life. It made me not ashamed to have anxiety and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. You are definitely not a failure and you definitely haven't failed! x

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  23. Hey I'd read it. I fucking love grief books.

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  24. I'd read it too! That's why I wrote it!!!!! Damn publishers xxxx

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  25. You are divine. Thank you, Kez. (That feels so weird! I'M Kez!!!!) xxx

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  26. Yes! We could sell a box of tissues with each copy!!!

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  27. Yes. Survival. And it really was a survival story..... All of us who are still here have survival stories.... x

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  28. I've got my fingers crossed for you (and other things...)


    I'm unpublished, but having two fiction books "in-progress" at the moment, I know how much emotional emotional energy it takes to write a book...


    I'm hoping to be submission ready sometime next year - then it will be my turn to have all the "feels"


    I hope you self-publish your grief book one day - I think a lot of people would read it... and I'm really looking forward to reading you first work of fiction too! So happy for you, and proud of you, no matter what happens! :)

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  29. Perhaps you didn't write for anyone else but you. Not every word is for everyone.

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  30. You know I would read it

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  31. Fabulous and brave blog. Also, after reading the comments, I think you should crowdfund the Grief Book. xxx

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  32. Oh bloody hell of course we need books about grief! Particularly by articulate and trusted people like you. They failed, you didn't.

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  33. I will just use the proceeds from the gazillions of sales of your brilliant books xxxx

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  34. THANK YOU JJ. And you know I'm cheering you on too x

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  35. You know, that's such a good point. It was incredibly cathartic to write. xx

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  36. As someone who devours memoirs, all of them filled with grief and loss, I say that those publishers don't know what they are talking about. I hope that you do publish it, because I suspect that I am not the only one who reads that genre quite frequently. You are not a failure and I wish you well with your latest book x

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  37. I am sure The Grief Book is the best one you have written. I hope we can all read it one day. I know I sure would. You are a brave brave woman, and this blog post confirms it once more. Thank you very much for sharing!

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  38. I would read the Grief Book. And I have no doubt I'd be one of the ten deeply moved by it. Thank you for sharing this. But your post title is wrong. You didn't fail. x

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  39. I'd read the packaging on loo paper if you wrote it. Some things are not about the "thing" but the moment. Its moment will come - probably back to back with another book and everyone will think, "Goodness that Kerri Sackville is prolific," and you'll think back to your annus horribilis and smile.

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  40. I would buy it and read it. For serious xx

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  41. Hard to hear what you've gone through after success but I remember how long you said you weren't *even close* to being ready to write about your sister and now you bloody well have. Perhaps THAT is your Everest? Your flag is already on the peak.

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  42. Perhaps those publishers should tell that to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who has at least two books on the subject.

    I think keep trying - send it to a few publishers in the USA or UK where plenty of such books have been published and it is an acceptable topic.


    For example, on Amazon, a search for books about grief had these results -

    1-12 of 802 results for Books : Self-Help : Death & Grief
    1-12 of 468 results for Books : Self-Help : Relationships : Love & Loss
    1-12 of 482 results for Books : Self-Help : Death & Grief : Grief & Bereavement :



    And there are plenty of lists on the web of books about grief, if you google. So, I do not think you have failed at all. I think the publishers have failed.


    Does this surprise me, in this day and age, where some of the best books I have ever read are self published by the authors? Sadly no.


    You could self publish it and offer it as an ebook, plenty of authors are doing that now, and as you see here plenty of your commentators would like to read it. :)

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  43. You've not failed. You tried. You tried your hardest and you poured it all out onto the screen. Just because it wasn't published doesn't mean you didn't succeed in the way you'd set out. You took the chance to be brave and write so,e hard stuff, reflect on your sister's life and death, and now you've writer this blog post with the lessons for all of us. You've won your own Olympjcs. Well done you x

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  44. It is a shame Kerri that your grief book wasn't picked up as I would have thought it is a needed resource. We all go through grief at various times in our lives and it isn't an easy emotion to process. I hope you do get it out there one day. Meanwhile I hope your fiction book is loved and we see it on the shelves as soon as possible.

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  45. I'd read a grief book. Seriously.

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  46. Yes, I second what Kym said. The act of writing about something difficult and painful can be very healing. It helps you process the emotions that are tied up with the experience. The act of creating a narrative lets you shape the experience in a way that is meaningful for you. These things alone are tremendously powerful, even if no one else ever reads it. So it's a huge success, even sitting there on your hard drive. If it gets published some day, or re-written, or whatever, that is just icing on the cake. Congratulations on writing something like that. That is an amazing accomplishment.

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  47. Lana (Sharpest Pencil)November 18, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    You didn't fail my angel. The publishers failed xxx

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  48. I love the way you've phrased that, Kristin. Thanks x

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  49. It's something I will consider. Maybe not right now, but one day. Thank you x

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  50. That's such a lovely thing to say. Thank you honey x

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  51. I really need to start writing packaging for loo paper.... xxxx

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  52. Thanks Tegan. I love those books too xx

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  53. Good on you Kerri. It's so tough, taking rejection. But you have published two books and written four! I reckon that's amazing.

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  54. Wasn't the Harry Potter series rejected by 4583459435 publishers before it got snapped up!? Clearly your Grief book will be the same. Grief is definitely something that is not talked about anywhere NEAR enough…. Keep pushing, I want to buy it!

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  55. Dear Kerri,
    I've been able to write about violence, sexual abuse and racism, but no one has ever wanted to publish anything about grief. I finally got 800 wds published http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/its-okay-to-grieve-forever-20141117-11ospc.html, and I can't tell you how many people have written to say thanks for the sad stuff. I hope your book sees the light of day. I'd love to read it, and I don't think I'm alone.

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  56. I need to read your fucking grief book.

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  57. Honey, whatever you right, is from the heart. I hope it's cathartic for you, and I hope the fourth book does even better than the others. xxx

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  58. Jesus, I meant WRITE !

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  59. Me too Eden.
    I hope we get a crack at that book one day Kerri.

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  60. I would like to read your Grief book. Having had loss in my life (as have most people)I don't think we need to be sheltered and I am at the stage where too much sunshine and fluff makes me want to vomit!
    Publish I say!

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  61. Yes, I was thinking what Kym said all the way through reading that post. I also felt slightly outraged that the publishers wouldn't want a book about grief. Because grief is real and lots of people go through it (life, death, kind of goes with the territory,) never mind about reading it, people are living with it. I for one, would love to read your book, and think that there should be more books like this for people to read, real books, with real feelings and real truth. Good on you for being brave enough to write it, if only the publishers would be brave enough to publish it. Ranting aside, I hope they adore book number four x

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  62. You are such a strength I totally admire and look up to.
    You have shown me how humor can help all situations.
    Your anxiety book showed it is ok to say I have anxiety and I dont need to suffer alone.
    You helping me helped me help others.For that I am so grateful.

    I have no doubt in my mind your grief book will have helped you and so will also help others.
    Thank you Kerri for sharing your world,bringing joy to many and for showing us we are stronger than we know.
    You are a beautiful example.Xx

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  63. Coz yeah you need a book about grief to be ... Um happy??? Take a leap and find away to publish it anyway, sounds like it will be a best seller because it's obviously raw and an accurate description of grief xx

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  64. Hi Kerri, your anxiety booked helped me more than years and years if therapy. I re-read it every few months as it's the. Only thing that makes me feel normal. It reminds me that I'm not alone with how I feel. The world needs your grief book! Keep trying, I believe in you.

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  65. Love your attitude. It might take a publisher moving on, or a publisher who has recently dealt with death to have another look at your book! Might not be the right time now, but you never know what's around the corner!

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  66. I'm tired of Hollywood endings and no reality to the movies, books and television we are served up. I think its a shame that we all want the sugar coated version of life. Sometimes it has edges, sometimes it hurts, sometimes its just plain nasty and vile. But if we cant talk about it and share it we create a world where it is not even OK to grieve when things go bad. I would hazard a guess that lots of people would be interested in your book. Put it on kindle!

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  67. Thanks Linda. I love your comment. So true x

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  68. Deb, you are always so lovely. THANK YOU x

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  69. Yeah, hate sunshine and fluff too xxx

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  70. You!!! I LOVED your piece. Absolutely loved it. Thank you soooo much for writing it x

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  71. I think people who don't want to read about grief are people who have not experienced it, and a book about grief is not for these people. I would definitely read your book. It would probably make me cry, but I would feel better at the end of it. I hope you publish it one day.

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  72. Why are people so scared of publishing the tougher life truths?! I want a bloody book on grief written by someone with a relevant phD... in life! Someone who has been there and knows that I want to stab people in the eye (not really.... okay maybe a little) who look at me with pity or say 'you poor thing, how are you?' - how am I?? oh yeah I'm great, my dad just died in a cruel and degrading way, I'm handling it completely differently to my mother and brother and pretty much everyone else on top of supporting my husband who this massive life event has been a trigger for, but OMG I love rainbows and unicorns and cannot believe how truly blessed I am blah blah blah.
    I will get to a point where I get through this grief and realise I am pretty fortunate but why can't they publish a book about that process? Grief is natural not something to pretend doesn't exist. Keep the book handy, the world will be ready some day.
    Yours sincerely,
    Ranty McRanterson x

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  73. Oh Kayley (Ranty McRanterson),
    I'm so so sorry to hear about your dad. How absolutely awful. What can I say other than that I hear you, and I hope you manage to stumble through, taking one day at a time and knowing you need to grieve the way YOU need to grieve. And I hope you are getting some support, and not from those stupid unicorns.
    With love,
    K xxx

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  74. Well, I'd love to read it. Truly. Grief is something my family has had many discussions about because of my sister's death, and I believe talking about grief helped me through Dad's death too. An important subject. I hope you do publish it someday.


    Can't wait to read the fiction novel! I think I recall you once saying you couldn't imagine writing a novel and now you have - you've challenged yourself. Fantastic!


    I'll always be a big fan of your writing, Kerri. xox

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