R.L. SAUNDERS

writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got. They’re from Claire’s

Rhonda! I thought you wrote a book or whatever! What’s going on with that? You were like OMG I GOT AN AGENT and made us think you were about to pay off all our mortgages ‘n shit.

I understand the confusion, and I’m sorry for leaving you hanging. So let me update you on my long, arduous road to publication, and then we’ll talk cabbage.

I’ve finished the latest round of revisions on my first manuscript. It’s middle-grade fiction (for kids between the ages of 8ish and 12ish). Or, as some middle-grade writers like to say, “It’s a sweet story for all ages.” That just means we want you to buy it and love it, even if you’re not a kid anymore. Sometimes adults like the relative psychological safety of reading middle-grade and young adult fiction. And so what? I’m right there with you.

My agent, Linda, will decide what to do next. That’s why she makes the big money. Her rocks are real like Jenny’s. Ideally, Linda will sell the manuscript to a publishing house. And when that happens, believe me, you’ll know because I will be ALL UP IN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA about it. And so will my mom (also named Linda, also has real rocks).

Jenny’s rocks are real.

In the meantime, I’m working on my second manuscript (a book is not a book until it’s published. Before that, it’s just a manuscript). I’m calling the second one upper middle-grade for now (for ages 10-14), but I’m just writing the story and we’ll worry more about categories later. Aside from both being set in the Florida Keys, the stories are very different, and I love them equally. I won’t waste your time by making some cheesy analogy involving a writer’s stories and her children, but you get it.

And now on to why you suffered through this whole thing–your mortgage payoff. Here’s the straight and unfortunate skinny: There’s no big money in writing. I hope I’m not giving away things I shouldn’t–like a magician who exposes trade secrets then becomes an industry outcast. But really, it’s true, even for most highly commercial fiction. Unless you’re some kind of freak like Suzanne Collins.

Sure, we all want to be that freak–of course we do. Of course we want to spend the summer at an artists’ retreat in a castle in Italy (two of my writer friends are actually doing this, and they deserve it very much). But writers aren’t banking on the freaky good money.

We’ve done our homework, including having earned relatively useless graduate degrees that we’re still paying for, and we’ve learned that we’d probably make anywhere from two to 70 billion times as much by teaching or bussing tables. And we’ve decided to write anyway (and also). Actually, you’d be surprised to learn how many of your favorite authors have day jobs. But they can’t help but keep at their craft. They’re writers. Sick in the head.

So there you have it. I’m still Jenny from the block, minus the rocks (and the abs). Still Rhonda from the South End, unpublished and broke. And I’m not just saying that because I’m coming home for the summer next week and I want you to buy all my drinks.

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