Petit Fours » A group blog of authors writing in different genres

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Why I Should Take Myself to Task

I’ve not been my chipper self the past few days. If you really know me, you know that cheerful is the candy coating. Inwardly, I’m often a royal mess. I’ve been thinking a lot about goals, progress, and lack thereof, and I was telling hubby that I can’t seem to get a grip on everything since I haven’t been staying home that long. He gives me that look like I’ve lost my ever-loving mind (I get that a lot) and says, “But you’ve been staying home for four years now.”

Four years? Really?

It was bad enough I graduated college and took a minimum wage job because I didn’t have the good sense to major in something useful. (For the record, you know what you do with an English major? Teach Spanish. That’s what you do.) Around twenty-five I hit some serious doldrums, too. A quarter of a century and I hadn’t accomplished jack in the quest to make this world a better place.

Then I did something really stupid. I told myself I needed to get published by the time I was thirty. Well, guess what? Thirty-six, and I’m still not there yet. I finished up co-chairing the conference with Anna, and I told myself, “Things are going to change. Now you’re really going to be able to get your act together!” Somehow a half a month has gone by, and here I am. Between the conference and our trip to Disney, I gained back every pound I lost between July and October. I have sent out Beulah twice, but I’m well below my 2011 goal of fifty queries. Still haven’t finished Starcrossed. Still haven’t cleaned my house.

I caught myself thinking, “Man! My high school self wouldn’t be this way. Sure, my room would still be messy, but all of my homework would be done, and I would still be writing. I used to be much more focused in high school and college.” Then my husband laughed, and I realized I was speaking aloud again. He said, “Um, you’ve never really been a laser beam of focus, dear. You were more like, ‘I need to write a paper tonight, and—squirrel!’” (Yes, he implied I share some similarities with Dug the dog from UP!) Indignant, I decided to check in on my sixteen-year-old self and see which of us was right.

Precocious Sally:  (Looks up from her copy of The Winds of War) Whoa, what happened to you?

Jaded Sally:  Life.  How’s it going?

Precocious Sally:  It’s Sonic. It stinks. Literally.

Jaded Sally: (shrugs) At least you don’t have to pay the bills with this job.

Precocious Sally: (shrugs back) Good thing since it’s only part time and pays $3.25/hour. It doesn’t matter, I’m going to go to college and make something of myself. Maybe a songwriter or a lawyer or a politician….

Jaded Sally:  Yeah, about that….

Precocious Sally: What? Oh, no. What have you done? I’m only a few points away from Valedictorian, and I’d be at the top of the class if not for that ridiculous driver’s ed teacher and his book tests that didn’t have anything to do with what he actually taught!

Jaded Sally: Well, studying isn’t everything, you know.

Precocious Sally: Oh no. You stayed here for college, married a redneck, and now you’re living in a van down by the river. I can’t believe this. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Jaded Sally: No, no. I live in the suburbs of one of the wealthiest cities of the South. Uh, the difference between the two is not as much as you might expect.

Precocious Sally: Where do I live now? Is it exciting? It’s not here, is it?

Jaded Sally: No, it’s Atlanta, but you’d be surprised how much you miss home sometimes.

Precocious Sally: (wrinkles nose) Really?

Jaded Sally: Yeah, really. So about this follow your dreams business, you might want to change your major. Maybe you should major in something practical in college. You know, be a lawyer or at least go ahead and get your teaching degree while you’re there.

Precocious Sally: Teach? Are you out of your mind. That is the LAST thing I would ever want to do.

Jaded Sally: You’d be surprised. Sometimes it was actually fun.

Precocious Sally: Sure. And you fell and hit your head somewhere in the time warp on the way over here.

Jaded Sally: Don’t you want to know if you got married?

Precocious Sally: I guess. I always envisioned myself as more of a career woman.

Jaded Sally: Well, it’s a little harder than you think to take care of kids and work at the same time. But you’ll be happy to know you married a handsome, intelligent, and charming man who has never made you live in a van down by the river.

Precocious Sally: Oh? How will I know when I find him?

Jaded Sally: Oh, you’ll know when you see him. Just like you’ll know when to have your kids.

Precocious Sally (gulps): Kidzzzzzz? As in plural?

Jaded Sally: As in two. As in you might have had more if a) you didn’t think it would push you over the edge and b) you had won the lottery and were thus able to pay for their college educations.

Precocious Sally: So, I didn’t do so badly, huh?

Jaded Sally: (stops to muse) No, I guess you haven’t done so badly after all.

Precocious Sally: I hate to end this little chat, but I really have to get back to my carhop shift.

Jaded Sally: Remember to keep writing!

Precocious Sally: I’m no good at that. I just do that for fun.

Jaded Sally: But you are pretty good at it. You might be able to make something of yourself a little quicker if you’d write a little more and play a little less Uno when you get to college.

Precocious Sally: (rolls her eyes) Uno? That sounds stupid.

Jaded Sally: (sighs) Whatever. Keep writing, okay? Maybe in an alternate universe you actually will get published before you’re thirty.

Precocious Sally: (narrows eyes as if older self has lost it) Oooo-kay. Bye.

Jaded Sally: Oh, and be sure to sue Sonic for sexual harassment when they tell you to switch shirts from the large to the small just so they can continue their game of guessing who has the biggest cup size. And I’m not talking about the Route 44, if you know what I mean.

Precocious yet Naïve Sally: What?

Jaded Sally:  Nevermind. Your parents would never pony up for a lawyer for that. Just be smart about drinking and stuff—your instincts are right there. Bye, now.

Precocious Sally: Hey, you!

Jaded Sally: Yeah?

Precocious Sally: Have you at least had fun?

Jaded Sally: Lots of fun.

Precocious Sally: Then I don’t think I should change a thing.


And maybe I wouldn’t change anything after all, so nose to the grindstone. Surely, there’s a little more hope left, a little more faith. Lord willing, there’s a lot more will power and discipline because that’s probably been my problem all along. After all, I have always liked to do things the hard way.


Sandra Elzie - October 21, 2011 - 7:39 am

Let me be the first to say that I absolutely LOVED your post today. I smiled, I laughed out loud and I saw myself…..well, here and there, anyway.

You are a talented lady…in many areas and you have a great writing future ahead of you. Go Forth & Conquer!!!!

ADTirey66 - October 21, 2011 - 8:27 am

Love ya, Sal. Also, I would like to point out that you’re published all over the interwebs… :) Including here. Great post.

Sally Kilpatrick - October 21, 2011 - 8:36 am

Thanks, Sandy. I’m glad it spoke to you, and I appreciate the push!

Ashley, thanks for the encouragement. I hadn’t thought of being published on the Interwebs. *gulp* All of these posts are going to last forever somewhere, aren’t they?

Romily Bernard - October 21, 2011 - 10:45 am

I loved this!! You’re not doing things the hard way, darling. You’re doing them YOUR way. As you should. I would be so upset if you gave up your snarky southern fiction for paranormals or whatever. But I’m not going to let you slide on BEULAH. I have the first three chapters, an Excel spreadsheet complete with agents, addresses, and submission requirements (OCD, what?), and absolutely NO reservations about sending it out for you. Consider yourself warned. :)

Pam Asberry - October 21, 2011 - 11:21 am

I love your post today too, Sally. Maybe you haven’t lived up to your own expectations, but it sounds to me like you expect an awful lot from yourself, and that you have lived a wonderful life. And speaking from the perspective of a woman old enough to be your (teenage) mother, you are just getting started. Enjoy your husband and this time with your children; they will be grown up before you know it. And keep writing and submitting! You are light years ahead of many of the rest of us; success is bound to follow. One more thing: thank you again for all the hard work you did to make the M&M Conference a smashing success. I know that took time away from your family AND your writing, but it made an incredible difference in the lives of many. It boggles my mind to think about all the good karma you must have collected! :-)

Linsey Lanier - October 21, 2011 - 12:48 pm

Sally Kilpatrick, don’t you dare even THINK about giving up on your writing dream!!! The world needs to hear your voice and experience your stories. You have amazing talent. This post is just one more proof of that.

Ah, to go back and tell yourself what you wish you had known earlier. I, too, would have told myself to write. That the voices in my head were inklings of stories, not some schizophrenic disorder. But perhaps that’s just the way life works for those of us born into the Writer race. All we can do is carry on, keep trucking, and remember, as The Three Stooges said, “To be an artist, ya gotta suffer.” ;)

Sally Kilpatrick - October 21, 2011 - 2:50 pm

Oh, Romily. OCD? You? I can’t say as I’ve ever been threatened by a spreadsheet before. Thank you.

Pam, thanks for the reminded that not only will this phase end but that it will end all too quickly. You are quite, quite welcome for any work I did on the conference. I did that work in the hopes that other writers would make important connections. Sometimes those connections are with other people and sometimes they are connections between the ideas that swirl in our minds.

Oh, and here’s hoping for some good karma, too!

Sally Kilpatrick - October 21, 2011 - 2:52 pm

Thanks, Linsey! I remember thinking back then and even later as a college student that I didn’t think I could write seriously because I didn’t have anything to write about. I guess I was still trying to be an activist, wanting to do some allegories to make the world a better place. At least I read some Wouk.

Sia Huff - October 21, 2011 - 3:24 pm

Oh Sally, it’s all in the timing. Look at far you’ve come. How many awards has Beulah won or finaled in? It WILL happen. And it’s okay to get impatient every once in awhile. It helps spur us forward. Now time to get back to the WIP. Have fun doing it :)

Marilyn Baron - October 21, 2011 - 4:25 pm


Tell Precocious Sally that I love Winds of War.

Tell Jaded Sally that she is a success as a person and an excellent writer and she will achieve her dreams.

Debbie Kaufman - October 21, 2011 - 4:56 pm

Sally, your lovely, quirky humor comes through in your writing. Rejections be darned, I truly believe your writing voice is going to find a place–a strong place. And when it does, I’ll say “told ya so” :)

Sally Kilpatrick - October 21, 2011 - 5:09 pm

Thanks, Sia. I’ll consider myself spurred!

Thank you, Debbie. I look forward to the day you’ll tell me, “I told you so!”

Sally Kilpatrick - October 21, 2011 - 5:10 pm

Marilyn, I love Herman Wouk. I only wish I had time to read a long, delicious book like that! And thank you for your encouragement, too!

Tami Brothers - October 21, 2011 - 7:28 pm

OMG Sally. You always crack me up. I can relate to that chipper thing. Remember it takes a bit to wind down from the whirlwind you’ve been on the last year or so. Once you get used to the idea of not having thirty things requiring your time all at once, you’ll start getting that feeling back. ;)

I LOVE your conversations with your younger self. I often wonder what I would say if I could actually go back. I’ll have to think on that one.

Got your back, girl.


Dianna Love - October 21, 2011 - 8:41 pm

You are so funny, Sally. You really need to get those books out there. They’ll love your voice. :)

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - October 21, 2011 - 9:52 pm

Loved this, Sally. I think you should give yourself a break. Having kids and a house and hubby and writing and… well, it can be hard for the most organized and goal oriented to keep up. And no, I’m not talking about myself. Far from it. LOL

Susan Carlisle - October 22, 2011 - 6:21 pm

I know you want to be published and you will be. But you are a success in the things that truely matter-you have a great marriage, and you are a wonderful mother. All the other stuff will come.

Sally Kilpatrick - October 22, 2011 - 6:42 pm

Tami, thanks! I always hope to amuse. As for my conversation with my younger self, it took a completely different direction than I had expected. I think it would make a really good writing exercise as well as being cathartic.

Thanks for the encouragement, Dianna! I really appreciate your stopping by. :)

Sally Kilpatrick - October 22, 2011 - 6:44 pm

Carol, thanks so much. I’ll try to give myself a break, but I’m not very good at it. I get very frustrated at myself for not being able to keep all of the balls in the air!

Susan, thank you for your kind comments. You are, as always, absolutely right.

Emery Lee - October 25, 2011 - 6:06 pm

So I’m not the only schitzophrenic out there! LOL! And BTW sweetie pie thirty six is still a babe. I got my first contract at age 44!

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