My last guest in the attic for this year is Milly Schmidt. I’ve become an avid follower of Milly’s blog since I first came across it earlier this year. I hasten to add that I’m one of more than 5,000 followers—we all love her down-to-earth, honest posts, and they’re always relatable no matter where you are on this long and arduous publication journey. If you haven’t checked out Milly’s blog, ‘The Cat’s Write’, make sure you do!
‘I’ve been through so much rejection in the last two years that I don’t even know how I’m still standing.’
Milly Schmidt is a writer, blogger and crazy cat lady living in the New England, Australia. She is currently working on her first crime novel, The Other Pretty One, a psychological thriller set in rural NSW. When not writing or blogging, Milly works in the human resources sector and has a Bachelor of Criminology from the University of New England. She is now undertaking graduate studies in Astronomy with the hope of one day working for the (as yet unnamed) Australian National Space Agency.
You can find Milly over on her blog The Cat’s Write, and also on Twitter and Instagram.
On Stapling Your Rejections to Your Chest
(and wading into battle)
I’ve been writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I created my blog, The Cat’s Write, two years ago, that I became serious about getting my work published. The main reason I created a blog was because I wanted to get started on my author platform, connect with other writers and learn how to self-publish my books. And what an interesting few years it’s been! I’m no longer the wild, starry-eyed young thing I was, I’m altogether a very different creature now: stronger, wiser and 5 kilos heavier.
Pretty early on I decided to ditch my plans to self-publish, and instead have a go querying and submitting my manuscript to as many literary agents and publishers as I could get my hands on. It was a huge surprise when the second publisher I submitted to (a small US press) sent back an email saying, ‘We would love to sign your novel with us!’ All I remember thinking is, Wow, how easy was that?, before celebrating with copious amounts of champagne and an obligatory Facebook ‘I got published!’ post. I really had no idea at the time that getting published is actually super hard. Long story short, the publishing house went under and they spat me out as ungraciously as a fur ball, my pride very much not intact.
Long story short, the publishing house went under and they spat me out as ungraciously as a fur ball, my pride very much not intact.
Since then I’ve finished three novels, and not one of them has piqued the interest of anyone in the publishing industry. To be fair, I’ve received a few partial requests and the odd encouraging email from agents, but in the end no one wanted to publish my work. I’ve been through so much rejection in the last two years that I don’t even know how I’m still standing. If it wasn’t for my blog and all the wonderful bloggers I’ve met, I’d feel like a complete failure. How do you get up and keep going when you feel as flat as a sting ray on the beach? And so I began to wonder: What does writing really mean to me? Why do I write?
For some, it might be because they want to send their stories out into the world like a message in a bottle, floating across the ocean to an unknown destination to hopefully be read and enjoyed by others. Then there are the enigmatic poets, who simply love the complexity and beauty of language and are proficiently adept at playing around with words. (If that’s you, can you please tell me how??)
‘Writing is like tugging on the coattails of magic and escaping to a world where anything is possible.’
For me, I always thought that it was the dream of new worlds that I was drawn to—that thrill of creating a new character, the feverish urgency that grips you and refuses to let go, turning you into a hermit for days on end, sunlight and fresh air a distant memory until you get that story down. And while this does play a big part in my creative process, there is also something else that drives me to spend large amounts of time in my imagination: writing is like tugging on the coattails of magic and escaping to a world where anything is possible. How can that not be tantalizing?
When I was younger, writing was my dearest of friends, keeping me steady and sane during my angsty teenage years. It became a therapeutic counsellor that slowly and surely helped me piece together my self-worth and joie de vivre. I don’t know how I would have coped otherwise. By the time I was 19 I had my first novel sitting in my bottom drawer. It didn’t matter that it was terrible and would never see the light of day. (The only person who’s read it is my mother, bless her cotton socks). All that mattered was that I’d conquered my own personal Mount Everest, the top of which made me realise I could achieve anything if only I set my mind to it.
It will be no surprise to you then that one of my favourite quotes of all time is by Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds:
‘Staple your rejections to your chest and wade into battle with them as your armour.’
‘Staple your rejections to your chest if you will, but don’t let them dwell in your heart.’
No matter how many times you fail, get up, keep going and write. Staple your rejections to your chest if you will, but don’t let them dwell in your heart. Instead, create sculptures, burn them in a fire, dance around like a crazy cat lady … then remember why you’re writing in the first place.
So why do I write?
For the exhilarating excitement, for the hope and the despair, for the healing and the laughter, and for the strength it has ingrained upon my heart.
Milly is my last guest in the attic for this year, but as there’s still one more Monday before Christmas, I thought I’d end the year with one of my own. It will be the 65th post in the series, so it’s about time I wrote one myself! I’m actually going away tomorrow for a quick holiday with my family before Christmas and the release of ‘The Sisters’ Song’, so I’m hoping the internet will be good enough to post from our destination, but I won’t know until I get there. Therefore, if you return in a week and this space is blank, you’ll know why!
The fact this series has lasted so long is a terrific testament to its popularity, and I can’t thank all of the authors enough. It’s been an absolute honour to host so many talented, honest, fearless and heartfelt essays on this blog. I’ve enjoyed reading every single one of them and have been brought to tears on more than one occasion.
I’m hoping to continue in 2018, but because I don’t know how busy I’ll be, I can’t give a start date at this stage. I’ll give plenty of notice when I’m ready to go, so watch this space …
In three weeks from today, The Sisters’ Song will be in stores and on shelves. I don’t think it’s hit me yet, and if you visited my house you’d see why. I’ve been preparing for Christmas and the family holiday, so piles of stuff are strewn everywhere—gifts and suitcases and things-we-mustn’t-forget-to-pack. Plus, having teenagers tends to keep you grounded—I don’t think they care one iota that their mother has written a book!
A while back, when my book first started going out to early reviewers, I held my breath waiting to see what readers thought. Actually, I more than held my breath—I near-panicked! The early reviews have started to come in and they’re better than I ever dared to hope for—a national magazine liked my book so much they’ve chosen it as their recommended read for January. I’ll reveal more about that closer to the time.
My publicist, Klara, and I have lots of things planned once my book’s released: interviews and guest posts, as well as a few appearances. In January, I’ll be popping into bookshops to sign copies of my book, so if you’d like me to visit your store just let me know.
If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of ‘The Sisters’ Song’ yet, here’s a list of stockists (not exhaustive by any means):
Angus & Robertson
Lastly, if you’d like to be in the running to win one of 20 available copies, don’t forget to enter the giveaway on Goodreads that’s on until 20 December.
Beautifully expressed Milly… I loved reading about why you write, and what keeps you motivated. Many blessings 🙂
Thanks, Leanda! Milly’s blog is well worth following for her down-to-earth musings about this writing life. 🙂
Thank you so much Leanda!! I was just looking at your website and I am seriously impressed (I’m actually at work, so I’m trying to hide my computer screen hahah), you’ve been blogging for such a long time too! 🙂
Milly, I love your post. Writing is a strange addiction, isn’t it? If we could just all write freely and share our writings in a democratic way, without the gateposts, the one way streets, the cul de sacs and motorways of the publishing game, what a wonderful world it would be. In Elizabethan times and in Heian Japan (10th-12th centuries), stories and poems were written by hand and circulated, and no money changed hands. but that was a world of patronage, when wealthy/titled people supported their favoured writers, so there was a downside to it. For me, I have given up on mainstream publishing. And I have to laugh when I hear that Richard Flanagan is ‘boycotting’ the MIles Franklin, because he is ‘always a bridesmaid’!! As if the Man Booker isn’t enough. Some writers have big egos. Mine was knocked out of me years ago. I will start following your blog, Milly, you write beautifully.
And Louise, thank you for a wonderful year of connecting; I am looking forward to reading The Sister’s Song after Christmas, my New Year’s treat. Merry Christmas to all.
I couldn’t give up my writing addiction if I tried, Christina!
I suspect that getting published was no easier historically than it is today, particularly because in days gone by only the wealthy were literate—there’s always some sort of gatekeeper. Since the advent of self-publishing, it’s probably easier than ever to publish your writing. Good luck with the pathway you choose. xx
P.S. I hope you enjoy ‘The Sisters’ Song’! 🙂
I’m sure I will enjoy your book, Louise, and I look forward to reviewing it.
Thanks Christina 🙂 Funnily enough I actually have read one of Flanagan’s books even though he doesn’t really write in the genres I usually read (birthday present). I just did a google and found an article on his boycott of the Miles Franklin Award – just wow!! What’s he thinking? Like you, my ego is either the size of an atom or a speck of interstellar dust hahaha.
I found your blog too, so glad to be able to connect with you thanks to Louise and the Attic!! 🙂
I’ve read a couple of his books and wasn’t overwhelmed. Not my cup of tea. There are so many good/great writers out there, and so many get published and even become well known whose books I would not choose to go to bed with, whereas there are so many which may not be published the kosher way which I would gladly spend my time with. It is a very subjective world and can be celebrity driven. Let us keep connecting.
Publishing and taste in books is so subjective, like all the arts. That’s why I initially stayed with Maths and Science—it was either right or wrong, and at least I knew where I stood! 😉
Yes you’re so right, it’s very subjective! I read The Narrow Road to the Deep North and… and I couldn’t get into it. I’m not sure if I even finished it – can’t remember what it was about. It wasn’t bad, I just didn’t understand what I was reading – so that’s probably more on me than the writer !!
Thanks so much for sharing your writing journey with us, Milly — with your resilience and optimism clearly shining through. You won’t always be rejected by publishers and/or agents. One day you’ll find the right one for your stories, and then it will be full steam ahead. I look forward to reading your debut novel some day. Until then, I’m glad your enthusiasm remains intact. All the best to you!
And to Louise, thanks for finding yet another fascinating guest for your blog series. I come away with a nugget or two of wisdom from every post — and I can’t wait to read your post next week. Of course, I’m also really looking forward to reading The Sisters’ Song, and so glad the early response has been beyond your dreams. xx
I’m sure we’ll be reading Milly’s debut one day, too! Her resilience and perseverance will pay off! 🙂
I hope you enjoy The Sisters’ Song. 🙂
Thanks for your support of this series, Maureen. xx
Thanks Marureen! It means a lot to read such lovely comments like yours. I was really nervous to share this story (all the rejections) but I’m so glad I did. I actually just got another rejection this morning from an agent, so this post is such excellent timing!! Onwards and upwards they say hahaha.
Milly your writing is always so fresh, funny and open-hearted – a real joy to read. And I empathise with your feelings about rejection – it stings, for sure. I console myself with the thought that it’s part and parcel of being a writer. Have you read the blog of Ben Hobson? (His debut novel, To Become a Whale came out this year?) To Become a Whale is his 5th book, but the others weren’t ever published. So many other writers have similar stories. Hang in there! Wishing you much writing success to come 🙂
Louise thank you for a wonderful year of blog posts. Enjoy your holiday because come January it is going to be one big long party for your book launch!!!! xx
I didn’t realise TBAW was Ben’s fifth book! Wow! The resilience and persistence required to keep going in the face of that is amazing!
Rejection makes you feel so dejected, but all it takes is ONE acceptance, the one you really want, and it makes it all worthwhile.
Thanks for the good wishes for my book, too! Best wishes to you for Christmas and the New Year! 🙂 xx
Thank you! Wow, I can’t believe Ben’s debut novel is his fifth book! I’ve only written three. I always assumed my writing wouldn’t be any good until I’d written at least six books hahah. I’ve been following Ben for a while, but hadn’t had a really good look at his blog – thanks for directing me there!! I love the name of his novel 🙂
Thank you Milly. Loved reading about your writing life. Louise I have really enjoyed your Writer’s in the Attic series and looking forward to more in 2018. Hanging out to read ‘The Sister’s Song’. have a happy festive season!
I’m so glad this series has brought such reading pleasure to so many—I’ve really enjoyed presenting it! All the best to you for Christmas and the New Year. 🎅🎄
Thanks 🙂 I feel so lucky to be included in the Attic!! I’ve been reading the series for a while and just love it, though a bit weird to see my name up there with so many wonderful, accomplished writers!!
Another amazing writer, Louise! I have really enjoyed these blogs and hope you are not too busy to keep them up next year. Enjoy your well deserved holiday.
Milly, I have just ‘followed you. How could I resist, with a taste of your writing on Louise’s blog? I am a sort of lapsed serious writer, but my blog sustains me. Looking forward to reading more from you.
I’m so glad I’ve introduced you to Milly! You’ll really enjoy her blogs. I know what you mean about your blog sustaining you—I feel like that about my little corner of cyberspace, too.
Best wishes, Maureen. 😀
Thanks so much for the follow Maureen!! I just found your blog 🙂 I’ve uncovered so many awesome bloggers through Writers In The Attic, I’m so indebted to Louise! 🙂
Yes, Writers in the Attic has been a wonderful way to find out about other writers and to follow those whose writing we like.
It’s been a great series! Hoping to come up for air soon and recommence it in some shape or form! Thank you, Maureen. xx
Great to hear Milly’s story, so positive and encouraging, I’m wishing her the best of everything with her crime debut. It’s good to hear how determined she is, I’m sure she’ll succeed because I’m certain that picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and just getting on with it is key to success. And fantastic news about being the recommended January read for a national magazine, that’s brilliant news and it should get The Sisters’ Song off to a flying start. Very well done to both of you.
You’re absolutely right about the keys to success in this business, Claire—it’s all about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and getting back in the saddle, so to speak.
Thank you for your good wishes—my book’s received such a warm welcome … so far… 😉 Fingers crossed it will continue. 🙂
Thanks Claire! I’ve been really enjoying writing crime, it’s nice getting back to m Criminology roots – I think I may have found my home! Oh and yes, lots of dusting going on at the moment – and there probably will be much more in the future 🙂 I’m so excited for Louise and her novel 🙂 I can’t wait to read it!
Thanks for sharing Milly! So tough, but you will get there!!
Can’t agree more! The biggest asset in writing to be published is perseverance! 🙂
Thanks Stephanie! 🙂
I’m so glad Milly squeezed into the Attic for 2017! Lots of cute kittens to keep us company in there, slinking around our legs and demanding pats 😸. I enjoy following Milly’s blog, and smiled at her line about the publishing house spitting her out as ungraciously as a fur ball – extra points for keeping to a theme!
Thanks for sharing your set backs, Milly. You’re not alone, and it’s inspiring that you’re still writing 😊 I hope you have a successful 2018!
Louise – best wishes for the release of The Sister’s Song. Having been very lucky to have already read it, I know it’s going to be well received!!! ❤️📚
I’m so glad Milly squeezed in, too! Much like yourself, I think it’s only a matter of time until she’s published.
Thank you for your good wishes for my book. <3
Marie!! I love that I’ve found you and Louise here on WordPress!! You’ve both opened me up to a new online community filled with amazing Aussie writers – it’s so nice to find a bunch of people who understand the inside Aussie jokes & slang I use on my blog hahaha. I do promise I won’t make any Tasmanian jokes though – maybe hahah 🙂
Likewise! What a good network of like-minded people WordPress can be! 😊
I’m from Perth, so Tasmanian jokes won’t affect me – but boy, I’d love to visit Tassie one day!
Lovely post, Milly and I agree, we must keep on despite the endless rejections. Thank you.
Thanks, Lis. ‘Keeping on’ despite rejections is the key—it got you and I there in the end! 🙂
Getting constantly rejected isn’t easy, but it’s good to know we aren’t alone 🙂 I just want to add, I see you’ve been blogging for AGES. Like, since 2006. That’s impressive!
Great post! I actually found Louise’s blog when reading Milly’s blog earlier this year, so it’s kinda of like a full circle moment to read a Milly post here. As usual, your can-do attitude shines through, Milly, and I’m sure that one day you’ll find the right agent or publisher.
Wow, this is a full circle moment! How nice! The internet’s great for introducing people pursuing the same goal and battling the same struggles. I’m sure Milly will get there one day, and so will you! 🙂
Aww, thanks, Louise!
I was just thinking, hey I know who you are!! What a cool coincidence/circle 🙂 Hopefully one day I’ll find a publisher – that would be amazing. For now I think I’ll start self-publishing so I can be motivated to finish all my half completed novels hahaha
Good luck with everything, Milly.
I really enjoyed reading this. I have also enjoyed a lot of rejection on my (as yet unrealised) journey to publication 🙂
I am new to this blog (via the Allison Tait article posted recently!) and now have two new writer websites to look through!!
Hi Poppy ! (Love you name by the way) I just had a look at your blog and noticed you’ve been shortlisted by the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award!! OMG!!! Congratulations!! 🙂 🙂
Thank you for stopping by, Poppy! Millie’s blog is wonderful, and I’m so glad you’ve discovered us both! 🙂