writing by the numbers . . .

In early June, New Mexico author Caroline Starr Rose wrote an intriguing, inspiring post– she displayed her “writing journey in numbers.” I decided to do the same to see how far I’ve come, because, as we all know, this writing life is filled with ups and downs.

I’ve been writing with the serious intent of publication for more than 25 years. And it started out so well! The first picture book manuscript I sent out to the first publishing house I chose received a lovely, not-form-letter rejection, which included specific revision suggestions to make it better and more marketable. I did more research, rewrote it over the following year, but no luck.

But then– the first poem I sent out for publication in 1998 was  accepted and published! An adult poem, published in an adult literary journal. I thought, “Yes! I can do this!”

Those were the ups— that they came at the beginning of my writing journey, I’m sure, is the reason I continued at all. . . but, I have always been a late bloomer.

So– here are the [sometimes approximate] numbers*:

  • Number of poems written: 300
  • Number of poems published in print and online journals: 30 (10%!)
  • Number of picture book manuscripts written: 26
  • Number of picture books published: 3 (slightly better than 10%!)






  • Number of novels started: 5
  • Number of novels completed: 1
  • Number of novels published: 0
  • Number of grants and contests applied for: 10
  • Number of grants and contests awarded:  2 –honorable mentions
  • And finally — Number of rejections from agents, editors, and contest judges since I began this journey: 410

The process of going through everything I’ve done over the past 25+ years was illuminating  and so interesting. I thought I’d written less. I hadn’t remembered the number of poems I’d had published.

In the beginning, I’d heard published writers and editors say things like, “the joy is in the writing,” or “you can’t be in this for the money,” and other such platitudes. I didn’t believe a word of it– then.

But it’s true. I am happiest when I’m writing. I feel most alive when I’m writing. Writing is the only way I know to love this broken world.

If you are on this writing journey too, I would love to hear from you! As Caroline says, “The writing life (and the publication process) is a long-road, long-view, long-term journey. There’s no other way to look at it.”

*People say you need a thick skin to do this work, to deal with the rejection. I would say all you need is a good, long stubborn streak. Happy writing!!