Since releasing my debut novel, I have had quite a few interviews, and inevitably they ask the same question, “When did you know you wanted to become a writer?” If I answered with the statement, I’ve had this dream all my life; I’d be lying.
The truth is, there was a story brewing in my head for years—characters, storylines, landscapes and facial expressions imprinted in my brain—jotted on scraps of paper, dry cleaning receipts, the palm of my hand. Parts of the story emerged when I wrote a screenplay as a film major in college. What I wanted was to be accepted into an eclectic arts program in New York City and to get out of Ohio for a semester. What I learned about myself was that for me to want to write, I needed a purpose, a motivation, a cause, and effect situation. I wanted to get an A. The dream of being a great writer was not enough.
As I grew older, I became fascinated by the extreme differences between my parents, I couldn’t imagine how on earth they had ever gotten married, and since they divorced when I was less than two years old, I couldn’t even picture them together.
This realization was the catalyst for the subject matter of my screenplay, providing me with fabulous character development from personal experience. The sheer difference between my mother’s conservative east coast vibe and my father’s groovy west coast free spirit was enough to blow anyone’s mind.
I have always loved writing, telling a story, perhaps even embellishing things to make it sound better. But the dream was not there until my marriage crumbled and expressing myself with the written word helped me feel better. The desire to have my voice heard overcame my fear of failure.
My high school teachers and college professors had told me to massage the writing muscle; there was potential. The tough part was believing in myself and not feeling like a phony. After all, I hadn’t graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing from a top school. I didn’t have that dark, gloomy, artsy vibe I had seen in the movies. What I did have was a willingness to try, and I lacked fear of failure.
Since embarking on this writing journey, I have found fellow writers to be both kind and supportive. The realization that being a good or even great writer may not be enough, (unless you’re an established best-selling author who can drop a book out there and have it hit number one).
The author must learn to market, to analyze Amazon algorithms, understand Key-words, put yourselves out there and ask for help. My partner is an attorney who realized this same phenomenon after practicing law for many years. They don’t teach sales in law school. The fact is, lawyers have to sell, find clients, ask for the business just like authors.
There are hard lessons too. Whenever someone is chasing a dream, there is an opportunity to be taken advantage of; we’d do anything to make our dreams become a reality. Find a team you can trust. Consult an attorney before signing anything. A great editor is critical. I hate commas and placing them where they’re supposed to go, nearly impossible.
Hang with those friends who still smile after you’ve talked about how you’re writing a book for the hundredth time. Step away to return with fresh eyes—meet a friend for coffee, walk the dog, water the garden, then edit, edit, edit.
My skin has thickened, I handle rejection with grace because even criticism can help me improve. The publishing business is tough, old-fashioned and hard to break into but handling this made me stronger, to want it more and to prove to myself I could do anything if I set my mind to it.
For me to write, the sink has to be dishes free, the cushions fluffed just so, the laundry rolling along, the Himalayan salt lamp lit, the diffuser fired up, a candle burning—yes, I’m a freak, but this helps calm my mind so I can create. Figure out what gets your creative energy flowing and roll with it. Over the five years it took me to write my debut novel I wondered how would I know when it was finished. As I continued my work, and re-wrote, edited, cut and pasted I prayed for a sign, anything telling me it was over, and I feared the moment would never arrive. Then one day I knew. What an amazing feeling.
A native New Yorker and captivating storyteller with a flair for embellishment, Jennifer Irwin currently resides in Los Angeles with two cats, a dog, and her boyfriend. After earning her BA in Cinema from Denison University, she worked in advertising and marketing raised three boys, and ultimately became a certified Pilates instructor. While she has written screenplays and short stories since her college days, A Dress the Color of the Sky is her first novel.
For too many years, Prudence Aldrich has been numbing the pain in her life with random sexual encounters. Her marriage to cold, self-centered Nick is, not surprisingly, on the rocks. But after several dangerous experiences with strangers, Prudence finally realizes she needs therapy to stop her self-destructive behavior, and so she checks into the Serenity Hills rehab center.
Prudence blames herself for her irresponsible behavior and is filled with self-loathing. She’s convinced she is completely at fault for Nick’s manipulative attitude and believes with therapy, she can return their relationship to its idyllic beginnings. However, her therapist and the other members of her rehab group see the person behind the pain.
As Prudence learns for about herself and the reasons for her behavior, including startling revelations about her childhood, she begins to understand the basis for her lack of sexual self-respect. She also learns she is not entirely to blame for the failure of her marriage. With the positive reinforcement of everyone at Serenity Hills, Prudence learns not to define herself by her past. But moving forward would mean letting go of Nick for good, and Prudence isn’t sure she can.