A Tale of Two Writers by Allyson Braithwaite Condie

Five years ago, in 2002, my dad and I both started writing our first books. I started writing mine almost as a knee-jerk reaction to his. He would send me portions to read and critique. I enjoyed it and I thought, “Hey, if my dad can write, maybe I should give this a try, too.” We both had a little more time on our hands than we had before or have had since—he was retiring, and I had just finished teaching high school and was awaiting the birth of my first child.

So, we were both writing…We called each other to talk about our books. We drove our family members crazy talking about our books. We inflicted multiple drafts of our books on each other.

My father and I share the same genes, and we are a lot alike. …We both want people to like us. We both hate rejection.

We are also very different. His first book is a non-fiction account of traveling through America with my younger sister; my first book is an LDS young adult novel. He is agnostic; I am a devout Mormon.

But, as we walked down the path of writing and marketing a book together, we had many shared experiences, and our similarities came into play much more than our differences. We joked about who had the most rejection letters. When a new one came in, we’d forward them to each other or read them to each other on the phone. At one point, the same agent was considering both of our manuscripts. (He ended up rejecting both of us-- another shared experience.)

And then, about two years ago, our path diverged.

My first book (Yearbook) was accepted for publication by Deseret Book and was published last September. My second book was published in June. My father’s book is still not published, although all the bigwigs (Penguin, etc.) have had him under consideration at one time or another. So, he waits and sends out more queries, and hopes. …

At one point early on in our journey, he sent me copies of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing, both memoirs about the authors’ writing. In Lamott’s book, she mentions the movie Cool Runnings, in which the coach of the team says, “If you’re not enough without a gold medal, you’ll never be enough with one.”

My father is a capable man, he excels in his career, and he is an exceptional father and husband. I think he knows that he is enough.

But just in case he has those moments, as I do sometimes, where you wonder if you are enough, I want to remind him (and perhaps myself) of a few things:

The publishing industry is subjective. We all know that money must be made, that people’s opinions may differ, that the gold medal of publication doesn’t always go to the one who should get it.

And, as any published author can tell you, even getting published—being lucky enough to grab that gold medal—doesn’t mean you feel like enough. You are still scared when you have a book signing, and worry that no one will show up. (And sometimes, no one does.) You worry that people will make fun of your book or have something negative to say about it. (And sometimes, they do.)

But ultimately, our worth is not measured in sales numbers or books in print. It is measured in whether we were good to those we loved, and whether we were loved. And, on all those accounts, my father is more than enough.

Allyson Condie's books, Yearbook and First Day are available at Deseret Book and other LDS bookstores.


Libby said...

Once again Allyson Condie has a way with words. Well said!

Anna Maria Junus said...

I really liked this post.

I've been published, I've had the gold medal in my hand.

And never got any further.

In some ways it's worse than not being published at all.

Josi said...

Getting published is like finally getting to the top of the beanstock only to peek through the hole and discover a whole new world that needs to be figured up. You thought arriving at the top was actually arriving at the top, but in truth there is another beanstalk waiting to be climbed. But this new one is a little more fun :-)

Great post.

Stephanie Black said...

That's awesome that your father and you can support each other on the often rocky road of writing!