By Kathleen Donnelly
In August, authors Chris Goff and Kevin Wolf and literary agent Terrie Wolf gave a wonderful panel discussion about their writing journeys including the ups and downs of their publishing careers. Each person had a unique story, but all came back to the same theme—never give up and never quit writing.
Chris was a journalist and in 1984 decided to write her first book. She loved the book, but no one bought it. Same with her second book and while her third book never sold, she did get an agent. She wrote her Bird Watching series and finally got a foot in the door at a publisher. Unfortunately the editor who loved her book left and was replaced by an editor who didn’t like her book.
Chris ended up rewriting her entire book, but the effort was worth it as the new editor bought five books in that series. Chris stepped away from writing for a short time and when she came back she started writing international thrillers. She has two books in that series published with Crooked Lane. At this time, Crooked Lane feels international thrillers have soft sales and while they are willing to publish any of Chris’s books, they don’t want to buy another international thriller. Chris’s advice is: “Keep in mind publishing is a business. There’s always a start over.”
Kevin Wolf found himself sitting in the Detroit airport during a business trip. He had arrived early and had a few hours to burn.
That is when he decided to start writing his first book. Kevin found a great group in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. He joined some critique groups and in 2009 won the Colorado Gold Contest and a couple more contests associated with other conferences. After winning these contests he had three agents who wanted to represent him. Kevin narrowed down the list to one agent and signed with her. The he waited. Nothing happened. After five years he started another book. He entered the Tony Hillerman contest. He won the contest and the book was published with St. Martin’s. However, the publisher underwent many changes and restructuring that involved editors leaving. Because of this, Kevin did not have another book published with St. Martin’s. He wrote a western that was picked up by a small press which also “restructured.” He is now shopping his next manuscript.
Terrie Wolf, after hearing the experiences of both Chris and Kevin, said, “This is just the way things work.”
Terrie grew up in Colorado in a ranching family. She did internships in television and went to Cambridge on a scholarship. She wanted to be Barbara Walters or Gilda Radnor. Terrie loved words and the power of words. After attending Cambridge and landing some amazing interviews, Terrie found that while she loved books and words, she didn’t love journalism. She traveled to many countries helping to promote concerts and loved being a part of the creative process. When Terrie came back to the United States, she worked for Penguin for four months. Unfortunately a bad car accident ended her Penguin days and on the suggestion of a Penguin editor she became an agent. This is when Terrie took over AKA Literary.
“We are all a family,” Terrie said. “Writing is the most amazing journey and everyone goes through ups and downs, but it’s part of enduring.”
Some final inspiration of the night came through questions and answers. Kevin said, “Control what you can and that’s always writing the best book you can.”
Chris said, “I dare you to quit. It doesn’t last if you’re really a writer. We’re the only one who can tell the story we’re telling. Open people’s eyes to how you see things.”
Terrie said, “If you’re not in quicksand, then you’re not going deep enough. This is the hardest and most gratifying job. You have to will yourself to share your spirit with other people. You’re asking people to berate you and make fun of you, but somewhere you will connect with someone and that will make it all worth it. It’s your spirit that reaches them. Don’t stop.”