Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Remember when Prom Season rolled around? If you weren't dating someone exclusively, you had a 50/50 shot you'd get asked to the Prom. Now, some women had nerves of steel and (remember I'm old and women's lib was just starting out when I was in high school) would ask a guy instead of waiting for him to ask her. I wasn't one of those girls.

Now all through high school I was in love with Ricky. (I think I still might be 40 years later.) We dated sporadically, he was All-American in football, wrestling, baseball. He didn't have time for a serious girlfriend. I respected that.

Junior year I waited nervously through April and May for him to ask me. I faithfully went to every one of his sports games during the year, helped him with his Lit thesis (he wasn't very good in English), and basically prayed nightly for him to ask me. He didn't. He asked Kathleen. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.

Senior year was a little different. As luck would have it, we went to a football party and ended up hooking up. (No, there was no sex involved.) We were "together" (although back in those days, if he didn't give you his school ring or his letter jacket, you really weren't). So, I waited patiently. Sometime around the last wrestling match Debbie made a play for him. And it stuck. She had his ring AND his jacket. To say I was devastated was an understatement.

(They've been married for 40 years now. But I'm still not over her underhandedness. EVERYONE knew I liked Ricky. A LOT. And I thought he liked me too. Guess I was wrong.)

You may be asking -- What in God's name does Prom have to do with ANYTHING? Well, ever since I made the announcement I'm going to self-publish, that's how I feel... like it's two weeks before the dance and I'm still without a date.

I've queried my brains out with my three books. Every agent, like a prospective date, and they've all turned me down. Sure, I've had one or two partials and even a full request, (Which is like dinner and a movie) but no one's said, "Sure, I'd love to take you to Prom."

Now back in the day, there was a group of girls who couldn't get dates and decided to chip in and rent a limo and all go together. That wasn't really done in those days. We looked on them with more than a little pity. Not that there was anything wrong with them, they just hadn't been asked. Let me tell you, looking back, if I knew then what I know now, I would have gone to Prom with them.

With this whole self-publishing thing, it seems I'm feeling those same feelings all over again. No date for the Prom -- do I want to scramble for a bad date, or do I want to go with the girls?

Do I want to keep scrambling to try and get an agent? Or do I want to go it alone and join a group of indie authors who seem to be having all the fun?

I've run through both sides of the spectrum, pro's and con's. I've gnashed my teeth, wrung my hands, spent many a sleepless night, pored over blogs and articles. Yes, I have decided to self-publish, but the knot in my stomach is bigger than any I had about Prom.

Tell me -- Is there a situation in your life where you feel like it's Prom all over again?


Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

well prom for me was a group event. Hardly anyone in my large group of friends actually dated anyone, so i went with my friend Rick who was very gay (though Anne/Twin got actually asked by her lab partner).
I think trying to get an agent brings out those feelings in most queriers (except for those lucky few who get offers right off the bat. Sigh)
You just need to do what you feel most comfortable with. Trust your gut, it's usually right

Laurel Garver said...

Like Sarah said, most queriers feel this way. The feeling your fate is in someone else's hands is what's so unnerving. Your decision should take away a little of that pressure, right?

Angie Paxton said...

I love the metaphor and I think you've absolutely made the right choice to go as part of the group of fun Indie girls. And there's always this to consider; once you get to the 'dance' one of the agents whose eye you've been trying to catch might be so impressed with your courage and joie de vivre they might want to take you for a spin on the publishing floor. And if not, you might still have the time of your life. Good luck!!!!!

Bossy Betty said...

Well, the thought of my prom still makes my eye twitch, so that's not a happy place for me. You get dressed up in your party dress, girl and go for it! What have you got to lose?

Talli Roland said...

That's a fantastic metaphor, and I can understand your feelings. But... on the other hand, it's an opportunity. I keep telling myself lately that there is more than one way to get to 'the dream'. And sometimes, it can make us happier.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Terrific analogy, Anne. Reminds me of when I started going to teen center dances. In between sneaking outside for a smoke, the guys would mostly hang back on the side of the room and watch. When I finally got up the nerve to ask one to dance, I NEVER had to sit out another dance again. Going to the dances became more FUN, and actually meant dancing ... what a concept! So, you go for it, girl! Enjoy the dance.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Felt like it when the larger publishers I queried said no, which is why I started querying smaller ones. Guess that's a little like asking the average girl when all the knockout ones say no. But I'm happy with my choice. Anne, your work is so good! You've queried all the agents - have you hit all the publishers as well?

VR Barkowski said...

Being interested in older (college age) men back then, I'm not sure my high school even had a prom. No matter. I agree, this is an excellent analogy. It's always hard to say how we'll feel later about any life choice. The main thing is to be grateful you have a choice and to resolve no regrets. You've made the decision to go to the dance. Your job is to get out there on the floor and show us your moves. Make those agents regret their decision!

Jennifer Hillier said...

I love this story. Imagine if you HAD gone to the prom with Ricky... ah, those what if's...

I actually didn't want to go my prom. Just wasn't into it. I did have a boyfriend, and we DID go to prom, and 18 years later, we still agree that our prom was kinda boring (we got married).

I love how girls today will just go in groups! No pressure, just good girl dress-up time.

Donna Hole said...

Good luck making your decisions Anne. I get that feeling when I query too. Or send my work out for critiques. Job interviews affect me the same way.


notesfromnadir said...

Your prom stories made me sad because you were so vulnerable back then.

But now, you're not vulnerable. You've made a decision & here's a secret. The average reader doesn't care of the book is published by the Big 6, a smaller publisher or you. They just want to be entertained!

February Grace said...

I graduated early-- no chance to be left waiting for a prom date though given I was a wallflower at every wedding I ever went to (well, except one but that was a fluke I think) I am sure I would have been waiting and likely have stayed home.

But in response to your post- I can only tell you this. I've recently come to the definite decision that if I ever do publish instead of continuing on in the great tradition of Dickinson by putting everything I write into a trunk--I will be doing it myself. There is just no way I could hand over so much control of my stories to anyone. Ever.

Wish I'd figured that out a year ago before I learned too much about how publishing really works- but then again, if I had I wouldn't have met you *hugs*.

Whatever decision you make, you know I'll be cheering you on.


Theresa Milstein said...

I hear you on that analogy. But there are more guys (agents) out there than your ex. And prom isn't just one day in the whole year. Keep at it!

As for me, my friends and I were too cool to attend prom. We did anti-prom stuff. For my senior year, hung out with a bunch of friends - one of them I wound up marrying.

jbchicoine said...

That's actually a pretty good analogy!
So, then, would submitting to a small press publisher be like asking one of the quirky guys who isn't very popular, but you've heard he's a great kisser?

Anonymous said...

I like your story Anne. And great analogy. I went to Prom with one guy than ended up partying and getting a ride home with another! Choosing one way may just lead you to a different outcome. Where ever the road leads you, know you have lots of support!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I think you need to realize one very important thing: Self-publishing will not ruin ANYthing. If it works out, fantastic. If not, move on down a different path. It's worth a shot, at least, if it's something you want to try. I certainly did! And look what it brought me? A lot of doors opened, but most of all it taught me some amazing, amazing things.

Don't let the fear of opportunity hold you back. Like I've said on my blog recently, failure belongs only to those who stand and let opportunities pass them by. Make your decision and move forward. If it's not to self-publish, then double your efforts in the other areas. I support you whatever way you go!

Elliot Grace said...

...loved the metaphor, Anne, and Ricky has no idea what he missed out on ;)

Our paths to publication may sprout from the same roots, but grow in very different directions. The trick is figuring out which direction is best for you, and never looking back. It'll happen. Believe!


Anonymous said...

Anne, knowing how well you write (and you know what I'm referring to), I think you should do this, especially since you're queried out. There are a lot of well-written even great manuscripts out there that don't get picked up by an agent and/or publisher. So go for it, girl. You really have nothing to lose. In today's publishing world, as you know, you can get published by even a large press and still have to do most of the promoting. You've got a lot of followers who will buy your books. And I'm learning about other resources to tap into. We can dialogue later, when the time comes....! Just be excited about the journey!!
Ann Best, Memoir Author

Christine Danek said...

Great analogy. So sorry about Rick.
Go for it, Anne!! I can't wait to hear about your new journey.
Good luck and keep us posted.

Ed Pilolla said...

so cool to hear you are self publishing. there's a personal power in it. and i'm on the bus, so of course i want you on the bus:)
perfect analogy. it's like you've dated the traditional publishing outlets and it's just not working. so many cool kids on the bus means going with a traditional date ain't no big deal.