"Is this Lisa Saunders?" the caller asked.
"Yes," I said, irritated, sure it was a telemarketer interrupting me in the middle of writing a story featuring myself as the heroine. Recently recovered from years of writer’s block, I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop—despite the fact that I couldn’t get an editor to adore me—or even to look at me.
Several months earlier I had sent my first story to Snooty Home magazine (name changed in case I ever work for them), thinking they’d be thrilled to get the first crack at my work—a humorous piece about what a slob I am and what it takes to prepare for a guest. But instead of sending me an offer to be their next great columnist, I received a “Thanks, but no thanks,” form letter. I’ll show them! One of their major competitors will snatch me up. I’ll become a household name! As quickly as I could address the envelopes, I sent my stories to other popular magazines. Still no nibbles. Although the wind was leaving my sails, I pressed on, now querying magazines that nobody's ever heard of.
The caller, sensing I was annoyed at the intrusion, continued, “Mrs. Saunders, I’m sorry to bother you. I’m from Nice Home magazine (name changed so they won't know I lumped them in the “nobody’s heard of them” category). We really enjoyed your “Oh No, Camping” and “My Apple Obsession” stories. Do we have your permission to publish them? We’d like to run the camping one in September and the apple one in October, but we can only pay you in three complimentary magazines. Is that okay?”
Somebody finally liked me! So what if I wasn’t going to be paid and I didn’t know anyone who read the magazine--now I’d have samples of my published work to show editors. Hanging up, I called everyone I knew along the Eastern Seaboard, “I have been discovered and am on my way!”
It was more than 10 years earlier, during my brief stint as a high school newspaper columnist, that I first thought of becoming a famous author. So I read books on how to write, scrolled a sheet of paper down into my father’s old typewriter, placed my fingers on the keys and waited. I couldn’t think of a thing to say! And that was it. I went off to Cornell University, majored in business, found a husband, worked in accounting, and had a daughter.
Writing never crossed my mind again—until the birth of my second daughter, Elizabeth. Born with a severely damaged brain as a result of a virus—cytomegalovirus (CMV)--doctors told me that she would never walk, talk, or even feed herself. Suddenly, I had a lot to say! As a way to deal with my grief, I began writing letters to friends and family to express my feelings about her prognosis and our future. Eventually, I no longer focused on what we didn’t have, but on what we did have, and the letters began regaling fun family adventures. Writing soothed my soul--perhaps getting my stories published would soothe it even more! I bought the Writer's Market, a fat book full of publishers and directions on how to submit your work. How hard could it be?
My September issue of Nice Home magazine finally arrived in the mail. I couldn’t wait to show it off! I pulled the magazine from the mailbox and stood on the porch, opening it to the table of contents. Wait a minute. I don’t see my byline. I flipped through the rest of it. My camping story was nowhere to be found! I called the magazine.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Saunders, we ran out of space,” the editor explained. “We found a humorous piece about laundry that fit better with this month’s theme.”
Devastated, I read the article that ousted mine. I had to admit, it was pretty funny. But I had funny laundry too. Why didn’t I think to write about what a riot doing my laundry was?
When October came, so did another issue of Nice Home magazine. I was scared to pull it out of my mailbox. Was more humiliation in store? But there it was—“My Apple Obsession.”
“Not your best piece,” was my husband Jim’s first comment after reading it. On second reading, I kind of agreed—I doubt I had made Snooty Home sorry they hadn’t grabbed me first. But I didn’t care--I was finally a published author!
Eventually, several of my little stories made their way into specialty magazines and local newspapers. I wasn't exactly a household name, but I was having fun--sharing the ups and downs of dieting, of trying to get a major publisher to notice me, remembering my eccentric relatives who hid false teeth and Twinkies, and of raising a severely handicapped child.