It Never Gets Old

Yesterday was an awesome day! The Little Dude and I went to the mailbox and opened a package of advance release copies of In Between Men! I got all chocked up and tears were in my eyes … It never gets old seeing my name on a book. But what really got me this time was the page opposite the title page where it reads, “By Mary Castillo” with a list of my two Avon titles. With three books in print, this isn’t a dream anymore; I’m a real author, baby!

After that emotional event, I got myself all dressed up and signed at the American Bookseller’s Association Winter Institute in Long Beach. The big surprise was on my table: freshly printed copies on In Between Men! So fresh, they had paper dust on them. So thank you to my peeps at Avon Trade – NO ONE does it better than you do!

Okay, now where were we on our list … Ah yes, #4. On my desk, I have three quotes tacked onto the shelf above my computer. One says, “I pay no attention to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

That’s some tough talk from an artist … Then again, when you’re tied with Beethoven as the world’s greatest composer, you can probably say things like that. On the otherhand, maybe that’s what it takes to be great; complete focus on your work so that it is pure. The consequence, of course, is the possibility of dying poor and ending up in an anonymous pauper’s grave.

Either way, I hold onto the spirit of this quote. With every story I write, I live this awful fear that haunts me: will everyone think I’ve gone too far?

With Hot Tamara, I worried that the last love scene between Will and Tamara was too cheesey.

With “My Favorite Mistake,” I worried no one would respect Isela for sleeping with a man she just met, and who could possibly get her an in with his famous brother.

With In Between Men, I worried that the appearance of Joan Collins as Isa’s guardian angel would be way over the top.

With Switchcraft, I have all kinds of worries that I can’t discuss right now.

And while that’s quite foolish of me to waste so much energy worrying about what people will think, I will admit that I have paid attention to the right people in my career. In the very beginning when I was still finding my footing, I had the good fortune of meeting a man named, Ben Masselink. He taught a writing workshop through the USC Professional Writing Program and our first assignment was to write the first five pages of a work-in-progress. I was terrified. But after I read it out loud, Ben asked me to step outside with him. No one moved, no one looked at me because all of us smelled the scent of doom. Outside, with my backpack slung over my shoulder because I could not have walked back in for it, Ben snapped my pages with his fingers and said, “Mary, you’ve got something here. It needs work, but keep writing.” And I did.

Since then, there are only a handful of people whose opinions I listen to. And even then, I keep my counsel against comments like, “that’s great,” “no comment,” or “are you sure this is English you’re writing?”

For those of you who think you need a critique partner/group, or to pay a freelance editor gobs of cash to whip your writing into shape, first hone your instincts. Write for yourself, play with words and make mistakes. Don’t rush over to the first person you meet and have them critique your work. Look for the right person. In my experience, I didn’t have to look. They came at a time when I needed them.

And now, I’m going to mainline some coffee to wake up. I was out late and Little Dude was up at 4:30.