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Dear Young Writers Group,

I started writing my first novel when I was in tenth grade. It was a fantasy time-travel book and I sent it out to one publisher. It was rejected with a nice note encouraging me, but saying that the book didn’t fit the publisher’s “list.” I worked on other things on and off, but I think that first experience gave me a good look at the reality of publishing and it frightened me. You could write well, but be rejected by some reason that you had never thought of. You could spend hours working on a book and get nothing but experience out of it. And clearly, as I listened to the adult writers struggling with the business, even if you were published, this was not exactly a career that you could depend on for day-to-day living expenses. So I listened to my father and to all the other sensible voices around me and moved on to what I thought was a more “stable” career.

The only problem is, it turned out that everything else I ever tried to do, I was telegraphing to people that what I “really” wanted to do was to be a writer, and that other things were only “bread and butter” in comparison, until I got up the courage and invested the time necessary to do what I was meant to do. It was a very painful experience for me to finally recognize that it is impossible to hide from yourself and that there is nothing worse than giving up what you really love for something “stable” and ordinary. So I made a leap, admittedly with the help and encouragement of my husband who now supports our family largely, and quit my job. I do not necessarily recommend this route for everyone, but for me at the time it seemed there was no other choice.

I see now, from the inside of the business, that there are many ways to make a living as a writer. There are always publishers who are looking for writers to work on series that have been pitched by someone else and are already selling well. There are Christian publishers, workbook publishers, craft publishers. There are people looking for technical writers, for writers to write newsletters or software manuals, and on and on. But it is also true that working part-time, for two hours a day five days a week, I make as much as I did at my other job. And there are a lot of perks. I write what I want to write. I write stories that I wish I could read. I write fantastic stuff that even I can’t believe, and I write contemporary fiction or picture books or mystery novels, whatever strikes my fancy at the time. I have what I think of as my dream life, the life I never believed I could have when I first tried and failed. My advice—don’t give up on the dream. There is a way to do it. You just have to find the way.

Mette Ivie Harrison

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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2011 all rights reserved.
Last revised August 10, 2011.