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.
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):
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.