Interrupted by American Idol Auditions &
Lessons Learned From The End of the Journey

This last week has been a whirlwind of excitement for my son and our family as we focused on his dreams instead of mine. American Idol auditions.

It started with a simple press release I sent out last Monday with the hope that some local media would respond to the subject line: Local Teen Wins Dream Ticket to American Idol Auditions This Summer. Then the calls and emails started coming in and as of this writing he’s been interviewed for the newspaper, radio,and television several times.

Here’s a snippet of the newspaper article by reporter Rita Sherrow:

 

While visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, the 17-year-old and his cousins spotted the American Idol Experience…

“We thought, ‘It sounds like fun, so let’s try that out,’ ” Conroy said in a recent interview. “We were all surprised when I won.”

At the end of the day, the winners from all the previous rounds were invited to sing again. Conroy performed “Stand by Me,” a classic song he had never heard before that day and one to which he added his own “pop twist.” The audience liked what they heard, and he won a golden ticket to move to the head of the line for the “American Idol” auditions…All the daily winners of the “Experience” are invited to try out for the real thing.

It was an exciting interruption in my life and as you read this we have concluded our Idol journey. It didn’t work out as we hoped, and we are processing everything knowing God has a purpose and is in control. I will share more pictures and specific details in a post to come, but through this whole process I learned a few things that I will touch on briefly here, then write out more thoughts in a future post or two.

Sometimes Being Helpful isn’t Helpful

I took it upon myself to send out press releases thinking my son would enjoy the media attention, and he did, but there were other repercussions I didn’t anticipate. I also gave him unsolicited advice from time to time which only stressed him instead of helped him. I’m still learning what a parent’s support role to an almost 18 year old looks like!

Being Hopeful is Different Than Being Expectant

I’m still learning this balance. On the day of the audition a tv reported asked me about my expectations. I rambled off something like “I have no expectations and just wish for my son to do his best.” In retrospect that wasn’t completely honest. At the time I didn’t know it. We all had expectations of him making the first round auditions. And he didn’t. More thoughts to come later…

Sometimes Failures Lead You Down a Different Path

Even though we didn’t make it past the first round auditions, an other opportunity has already presented itself to my son, and I’m a tad envious and very excited for him. I’ll share more when I have more details.

A Child’s Disappointments Are Often Felt Hard by Parents

I touched on this a while back, but I didn’t expect to be hit this hard again. I think it goes back to my unintentional expectations of him getting through to round 2, and he didn’t. But his “rejection” just intensified my own writing rejections I’ve felt over the years. I’m still dealing and processing with all the emotions of that and the weekend Idol experience.

When Disappointments Hit Hard Offer Space and Grace

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, when disappointments hit we need to give each other space. I know when I’m dealing with a rejection I want to be left alone and so that’s what I tried to do with my son. I also offered grace as my family needs to do with me when I get a writing rejection. A lot of ugly oozes out of our rejection sores, but I tried to remind myself it’s only the hurt talking and I’ve oozed my fair share or ugliness.

Yes, our Idol experience is over and once again if we were completely honest with ourselves, it never really was my son’s  ”dream.” In fact, if he hadn’t won the Dream ticket, he might not have auditioned and the perks were sweet.

Having the Dream ticket opened up new doors for him, but it could have been the thing to lock that Idol door. (More on that later) Then again, if Idol was not part of God’s plan for his life, better to keep that door locked!

Now your turn:

How do you deal with your child’s disappointments and rejections? What have your learned?

 

5 Rules to Avoid Disappointments

It’s been a while since I got a rejection, (mainly because it’s been a while since I submitted something.) They used to hit me hard, and sometimes they still do, if I don’t follow the 5 rules to avoid disappointments I’ve learned the hard way over the years.

This weekend I forgot the rules. I dropped my guard, and let a non-writing related disappointment overpower me. I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout and honestly, in the big scheme of life this disappointment is too ridiculous to share. But it hurts just the same. And when your kids are involved, it sometimes hurts worse.

So what will I do next time to avoid disappointments?

Don’t Have Expectations

I know this sounds harsh and depressing, but over the years I’ve learned the higher my expectations, the harder the fall when disappointments come. Growing up I had one relative who would always promise things and never follow through. It hurt. Every time. So to deal with that disappointment I lowered my expectations of this person. And instead of expecting anything, I left the door open for the possibility that this person would come through.

This philosophy has also worked well in my friendships. You know the friends who promise you everything, but never follow through? I still love them, but I don’t expect them to keep their promises. I’m hopeful that they do, but my heart has been broken too many times to let my expectations of our friendship get too high. This also works well when submitting a manuscript. If I don’t expect a contract, I won’t be crushed when I don’t get one. By lowering my expectations, I’m guarding my self against disappointments, but not closing the door to possibilities.

Be Hopeful

Having low or no expectations doesn’t mean you have no hope. It just means that you’re okay with the way things will turn out. It means that you wish the outcome would go in your favor, but you’re fully aware it won’t. This is the second mistake I made this past weekend.

I let my expectations get too high that I forgot to be hopeful. Forgot to look at the big picture and put everything into perspective. I forgot there was a possibility of failure, and I’m dealing with the emotions that have been puffed up out of proportion.

Do Your Best

Whether you’re writing a novel or working full time for a company, if you focus on your performance instead of the outcome disappointments will be easier to handle. There are lots of reasons why we may not land a contract or get that promotion, but if the circumstances are outside of our control than it’s easier to say “I did my best and I (it) just wasn’t the right fit for me right now.” If you are proud of what you accomplished and have no regrets, than your disappointments should be easier to handle.

Remember Father Knows Best

I’ve learned over the years that God knows what He’s doing even though I don’t understand it most of the time. And his timing is perfect. He sees things I don’t and knows what’s best for me and you. I forgot that this weekend, and instead focused on what I wanted. By focusing on God’s will and plan, even though you may not know it, it will help calm the emotions that rise when you’re inner two year old wants to through a tantrum. And when that two year old does start to whine (and he will) you can say, “God’s up to something, and he’s got something better for me planned.”

Celebrate (with) Others

This might be the hardest thing yet, and maybe this is the one God’s still working on with me, but when someone else achieves the dream you’ve longed for, celebrate with them. Some of us aren’t there yet, I know. So I’m adding a caveat to this rule…

Take your mind off the prize you just lost and celebrate others! I’m not asking you (or myself) to cover your feeling and emotions, but I do think it’s important not to wally in misery. The best way to do that is to take your eyes off yourself and what you lost and celebrate what you have. It doesn’t have to be related to your disappointment, just choose to focus on the positive in your life, especially when the emotions rise.

Dealing with disappointments stink, and since I’m being honest and transparent here, I’ve frankly had more than my fair share of them, and I wish they would just stop. But I know they won’t, so next time I anticipate something that might bring about a disappointment, I’ll remember my 5 rules for avoiding disappointments.

How about you? What can you add to the list?

 

 

Motivation to Keep Going

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

What gets you out of bed on a lazy, rainy morning to brave a day of errands? What keeps you going when nothing you’ve planned is working? When your kids are defiant and your husband just doesn’t ‘get you’ and you’re friends, well, are only online?

How about when your dreams are crushed, and you’ve received that last writing rejection and just want to quit?

If you’ve been reading my posts and following my writing journey, you know it’s been an up hill battle for me. I write and study and attend writer’s conferences and write some more and get rejections. Then I start the process all over again. But what keeps me writing even when I say for the millionth time I’m going to quit are the little encouragements along the way.

A kind word from a friend, whether in person or on fb, a bible reading that connects with your soul, or an encouraging rejection…yes, in rejection we can find that little push we need to keep going. We just need to look past our hurts and hear what an editor or contest judge is really saying.

And then be brave enough to accept the truth and stubborn enough not to let it crush our dreams.

A little bit of encouragement along the way helps us move forward, but sometimes you have to look hard. Look hard, keep pushing, and pay it forward. Your encouragement to others just might be the thing that keeps someone else from quitting!

What encouragement can you find today?

 

Not Finaling in Genesis Doesn’t Make You a Loser!

Earlier today, Katie Ganshert wrote that she never finaled in the Genesis contest, yet is contracted for two books with Waterbrook Multnomah for a book she entered twice. Her post made me think about my own contest journey and road to publication, and how there are many hurting nonfinalists out there today questioning their writing and call.

I want to offer another voice of hope through my story.

I never finaled in the Genesis or any other contest, unless you count the time I entered in two different categories and made the top ten. Don’t get too impressed. There were only a little over a dozen entrants in each category and I didn’t win either category!

But I’m not a quitter, so the following year I entered again. I tried not to get too hopeful, but it bubbled until those dreaded results screamed YOU’RE A LOSER because you didn’t final.

Then the scores came back.

While most of the judges gave me great scores confirming my brilliance, there was one critiquer that showed no mercy. Of course, that one critiquer didn’t know what she was talking about and killed my chance of finaling!  But after the initial pain and disappointment wore off, it was that one critiquer that helped me grow as a writer.

So I honed my craft again, entered the next year, waited, hoped, prayed…failed! Same low ball score blew my chance again, but gave great comments.

Notice a pattern here?

The next year I didn’t plan on entering until a multi-published, award winning author friend encouraged me to do so. It was a different story in a different genre, and well, she knew what she was talking about, right?

Wrong!

Didn’t final!

Failed again!

Between contest failures I got my agent and champion Chip MacGregor who cared more about my writing and voice than my contest scores.

And my first novella comes out January 2012.

So to answer Katie’s Ganshert’s initial question can you get published without finaling in the Genesis contest?

The answer is YES!

What have I learned about entering contests?

Do it for the right reasons
Check your motives. If you’re only in it for the glory of an award, you need a reality check. Only ONE person can win and while finaling is an honor, no one really remembers the runners up, unless you keep it in your signature line!

Enter contests with an open mind and heart. When the scores come back, listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then figure out how you can improve your craft. You just might get the most help from the lowest scoring judge!

Let Yourself Feel
It’s okay to feel sad, depressed or angry about a rejection or a contest loss. Just don’t wallow in it. I learned the hard way that before I read a rejection letter I should lock myself in a room for a while. Though I always think I can handle the rejection, my disappointment manifests in my shortness and lack of patience with my family. I never intend to take out my pain on those around me, it just happens. I also learned that when I allow myself time to grieve, then I am better able to handle life around me.

Contest Judges are Subjective
Entering contests is a crap shoot. You might be the best writer in your critique group, but because you got a judge that was more strict or savoy on the writing rules, had a bad day before she sat down to judge your entry, or was turned off by something in your story that had nothing to do with your craft, you could get a low score. And not final. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer and will never get published.

Bottom line is that while some judges might think you’re brilliant, others might wonder why you even entered. Judges are subjective and you can’t base your writing and self worth solely on test scores, but be open to listening to all comments. If you receive consistent low score with all judges, then it’s a good idea to take a closer look at how you can improve your writing.

Be Kind and Gracious to Judges
I admit, I’m a tough judge. But I’m also thorough in my commenting. My goal is to be fair and  help writers grow in their craft, not be easy on them. Judges work hard and you may not agree with their evaluation, but you should be kind and send thank yous if it is permitted.

Don’t Air Your Complaints!
I once judged a contest where a disgruntled entrant who didn’t final complained to my contest coordinator that her submission had finaled in other contests and that the judge (me) didn’t know what she was talking about. The contest coordinator reviewed my critiqued and agreed with my findings!

This bitter attitude did not portray the writer in a positive light, and I’m sure when she calmed her emotions down, she regretted her actions. Don’t make the mistake of voicing your negative thoughts in public. In the end you will only look bad.

So if you didn’t final in the Genesis or another contest, all hope is not lost! Many published writers have been where you are now. We know the disappointment, the negative emotions, and internal dialogue bouncing around your head. Allow yourself to feel and grieve and maybe even avoid all those congratulation posts on the internet, then after the disappointment eases a bit, get right back in the game, celebrate with your friends who finaled, and grow in your craft.

Who knows, not finaling may just be the best thing for you and your writing!

What are YOUR contest experiences and how do YOU handle rejection?

 

From Apathy to Anger…

When my last rejection came the other day, I felt disappointed and frustrated. I was really hoping this was it. When all the fruit of my labor would pay off. But nope! Not yet! In fact, after a summer long winning streak (various family members won three rounds of Wicked auction tickets, a trip to NC and appearance on a PBS television show and a full scholarship to a music conservatory for the year) it would have to be me to break our winning streak with a loss! Mainly, a rejection for my latest WIP.

This rejection didn’t hit me that hard. Disappointment only lasted about 20 minutes, due to the “it figures” factors and even though I expected to sell this WIP, not selling was just a typical part of my writing career thus far.

Days later, I’m still plugging away, wondering if all this work will be worth it. If all the years toiling will actually bring about fruit and when I finally get published will I honestly even be excited! That’s my biggest fear. I fear that after all this hard work that I won’t be excited when it actually happens and I’ll just heave a big sigh and say “It’s about stinkin’ time!” I so don’t want that to be my attitude, but it feels like that’s the path I’m headed. It feels like I’m working my tail off with nada to show for it, while others who are working hard as well just get handed contracts left and right. And frankly, I’m tired of hearing about it right now! (Go ahead..give your collective sigh and then get honest with yourself. You feel the same way if you’re reading this and struggling with a similar road to publication!)

I’ve already been down the “why not me?” road before. And I’ve accepted that it’s not my time yet. But I think I’ve come full circle to the “why isn’t it my time, Lord?” What more do I need to do? I’ve practically scaled back writing and seem to have my priorities in order. When? WHEN? WHEN???? But God knows best is my pat answer and while it’s true, I don’t have to like it!

Today, I crossed the line from apathy to anger. (Don’t worry, by the time you read this, I’ll have fallen well back into apathy!) And I’m really starting to get angry at God. I don’t think I missed him on this one. On writing and being published. But why in the world is it taking so long to be published? (Yeah, I know. Not as long as some of you out there. But let’s face it. Longer than others!) The rejections I’m getting is that my writing is good, but my stories just don’t “fit!” So where do I fit? I’m not sure. And should I conform to just get a contract? Or should I write the stories God keeps giving me (which take a year or more to write) only to never sell them?

I’m a fighter no matter what! And I’m not one of those writers who writes just to write. I’ll write until I publish…or die trying.

Thanks for listening! I feel much better now! See, already slipping back into apathy!

My First Rejection!

Well, it’s a half-truth, (my kids and I have been studying when Abram told a half-truth to the pharaoh of Egypt saying Sarai was his sister which was true, but she also was his wife.) We had a great little discussion on whether a half-truth is REALLY a lie, and if we speak against the truth are we speaking against Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life?

But that’s not the reason for this post. Though I’ve received many, many rejections in my writing life, this month I had to GIVE my first rejection. I never thought I’d have to sit down and write on of those emails that start like this…

Thank you for your submission, unfortunately it doesn’t meet the criteria for our writer’s guidelines…

Have you figured out what I’m talking about yet? It’s a rejection letter for the Carnival of Christian Writers. While many people sent in wonderful and thoughtful posts, they were not about writing, the craft of writing or the struggle with writing, etc.

So you still have a chance to submit.  Only five more days until our very first Carnival of Christian Writers!

And don’t worry, if you stick to the guidelines, chances are you WON’T get a rejection letter…from me!

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