I wrote my first book when I was drowning in work as a first year associate at a large New York law firm. There was some interest from agents, enough to let me know that I was onto something, but not enough to have someone sign me.
“I see real potential here,” one letter read, “but unfortunately, I do not believe this is the type of book I can sell.” Another agent who I managed to get on the phone told me I had written a good book in a genre whose time had passed.
“It’s a love story!” I wanted to scream.
But instead I sat quietly, letting the rejection soak in. “I’m doing dark fiction now,” he said. “Clive Barker. Tananarive Due. That’s where I think the market is going.”
I hung up the phone and began to write. It took two years, but finally I had something I felt was good enough. The story was dark, bloody, quirky. “It needs work,” one agent wrote. Again, I received positive comments but there were no offers of representation.
By then I was newly married with a good position at a Fortune 200 Company. I had moved to Maryland, bought a house and we were going to have a family, two cars, a backyard.
The book ideas were plentiful, like a dripping faucet in the night. So many books I could write. So many rejection letters I could receive. I promised myself I would never write again. To me, my writing was my child. And not getting it published was akin to someone telling me my baby was ugly and unworthy of love.
But then…I had real babies. Babies who were unpredictable and uncontrollable; babies who didn’t take to the breast right away, babies who had sleep apnea, babies who didn’t like strangers, babies who couldn’t always be soothed. Babies who, no matter how much I tried, no matter how many careers I set aside for them, made me feel like I could do nothing right.
And feeling like I was a failure at writing paled in comparison to feeling like a failure at mothering.
I began to write again. And suddenly, writing didn’t seem so bad. It became less of a struggle and more a succession of small victories that didn’t need to culminate into perfection but only needed to have heart. You see, for me, working at something that mattered so much more than writing was what gave my writing its life. And motherhood—the sacrifice, the self-flagellation, how it changes a woman—became the centerpiece of my story. A story I imagined while in the carpool line, while doing dishes, while sorting the laundry, while taking care of my children. My story, my novel, ‘Til the Well Runs Dry, written mostly at night while my children slept, will be a Spring 2014 lead title for Henry Holt. Like my children, it is a story born from the imperfect, yet somehow it has turned out to be most perfect for me.
Lauren Francis-Sharma, daughter of Trinidadian-born parents, was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan Law School and practiced as a corporate lawyer before writing “‘Til the Well Runs Dry“, her first novel.