50 Shades of Happy: How an RMFW “Failure” panel brought this topic home

Welcome to the third installment of my happiness series. If you’re just joining us, you can read the first two installments:

The Happiness Advantage - To write better novels, lighten up!
The Happiness Advantage – Don’t set a goal without it!

As promised, I’ll ask, did you try the “Three Acts of Gratitude” exercise? The Fun Fifteen? If so, did these simple strategies nudge you up a step on the happiness scale?

I tried it. It didn’t launch me into euphoria, but it did instill a quiet happiness inside me, an inner strength that made each day a little easier, a little brighter.

When happy, our creativity triples. Be grateful for the simple things in life, recall specifics about them, and this daily practice will retrain your brain to see the world in a brighter light. Think of one positive experience in your last 24 hours, day after day, and it will empower you to find new meaning in your life.

Simple but powerful stuff.

I started this happiness journey because my life was feeling flat. I felt my options slipping away, as if I had been given X number of days left to live and that all the pleasant surprises and opportunities I would ever receive had already been sent—and there would be no more.

These exercises (Gratitude and Fun Fifteen) reminded me that the joys and pleasant surprises of life were still gracing my days. Once I started focusing on happiness, some sunny and cumulative effects began occurring.

First, I noticed the proliferation of “happy” articles in the media, as outlined in the first installment. Second, I noticed tips on how to regain happiness.

Then Mary Gilgannon, who is always so generous in sharing some of the more frustrating details of her writer’s journey (not just the triumphant moments), spoke on our RMFW loop about writing journeys gone bad. She announced that a panel of published authors would discuss failures and frustrations at this fall’s RMFW conference.

Being in the happiness mode, I was fascinated. How can we sustain happiness after we’ve been flattened by circumstances beyond our control? That’s exactly what Bonnie Ramthun, Mary Gilgannon, Shannon Baker and J. A. (Julie) Kazimer revealed during the discussion launched and moderated by Jeff Seymour.
First, kudos to them all for being willing to share the failures hidden from view by an exterior curtain of traditional “success” --

  • First contract with a reputable agent.
  • First publishing contract with a Big Five Publisher.
  • First multi-book contract.

Who among us, seeing such success, would approach these authors and say, “Oh, poor you!!”

Yet each of these authors suffered a punch in the gut that would floor most of us.

Bonnie Ramthun. Landed first contract, followed by a series contract. Series cancelled. Random House, landed new contract. Sold well but not enough for a sequel. A stunning FOUR-book contract with Grosset & Dunlap in 2012, followed by a nightmare when Penguin Putnam acquired them, her editor left, and Bonnie became an orphaned author.

Mary Gilgannon. After a Cinderella beginning when she was first published 20 years ago, her career became a nightmare of four different editors, three pseudonyms, six agents and a ten-year drought filled with dozens of rejections.

Shannon Baker. Her Nora Abbot series was picked up by Midnight Ink, but never made it past the third book. She was so overwhelmed by defeat after the first book’s release that she didn’t even promote her second book. Now? She recently signed a multi-book contract with Forge.

J. A. Kazimer. Julie collected a record one thousand rejections prior to her selling her first book in 2010. She’s now at 8 traditionally published books and ponders how many more it will take for her to make a living from her writing.

One of Jeff’s most interesting questions of the panel was this: How did you turn things around?

Shannon just kept writing. Those who know Shannon also know her wicked sense of humor, and it has been a valuable tool for her as she navigates the more treacherous waters of publishing.

Mary used her sense of humor, also, when she told us she vented and indulged in whiskey and chocolate. What Mary did instinctively each time she suffered a setback was to come up with a new plan. This gave her a sense of direction, a modicum of control, a way to get through the tough times. “Exercise. It makes you feel better. And write.”

Bonnie recommended that you move to a different direction. Don’t keep butting your head against a blocked path. Try a different route.

Employ your good sense of humor. Use your creativity to create new paths. These women all used their own assets to weather the storms.

They also reached out by venting with their fellow writers, who understand.

Returning to the topic of the first installment of this series, first find happiness in yourself, and then go forward to claim success. Don’t wait for “success” to make you happy because, as these experienced published authors can attest, publishing success can be erratic, punitive, unpredictable or nonexistent. Be happy, and then go forward with your dreams.

Some new releases on the topic of happiness:

THE GRATITUDE DIARIES: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan—how living gratefully leads to a richer, more fulfilling life.

BROADCASTING HAPPINESS: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change by Michelle Gielan

RISING STRONG: THE RECKONING. THE RUMBLE. THE REVOLUTION, wherein social scientist Brene Brown takes us through the process of getting back up after stumbling and falling.

Finally, a pretty blonde took me aside at the RMFW panel discussion and recommended a series on happiness. Hopefully, she is reading this blog, and will respond with the title to that series, which sounded very good, also.

Wishing you all much happiness in your writing journey!

--Janet

Janet Lane
Janet recently released Crimson Secret, the fourth book in the international award-winning, #1 Amazon Bestselling historical romance series. Her novels are set in fifteenth century England during the so-called “Gypsy Honeymoon” decades. She graduated with honors from the University of Colorado, completing their Creative Writing program.

In addition to the awards mentioned above, Tabor’s Trinket, is a #1 Amazon Bestselling novel. Emerald Silk, part two in the Coin Forest series, was reviewed by the Historical Novels Review, which noted that it “goes beyond simple romantic suspense by including serious issues such as racism, homophobia, and clerical greed. However, the love story and the quest for the stolen chalice take center stage throughout.” #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author Lara Adrian called it “..an enchanting medieval romance filled with passion, intrigue and vividly drawn characters that leap off the page. I loved this novel!” Crimson Secret is the first novel in the series to be released as both a Kindle and as a paperback.

Janet was a featured author in RMFW Press’s Tales from Mistwillow anthology, and co-chaired the editorial board for that press’s anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for the Colorado Book Award.

Janet lives with her husband in Colorado, surrounded by a forest of conifers, herds of deer, and an occasional black bear. She welcomes your comments and feedback via her blog at http://janetlane.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @janetlaneauthor.

6 thoughts on “50 Shades of Happy: How an RMFW “Failure” panel brought this topic home

  1. Janet, thank you for posting this blog series on happiness, which I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve found that keeping a gratitude journal makes a big difference in my perspective, and the “fun 15” is a lot more doable and less intimidating than a “serious 60” for me, anyway 🙂

    I wasn’t able to attend the Colorado Gold session you discuss, but I bought a recording of it because I knew I needed to hear it. I was tremendously moved by the honest sharing of the authors who participated on the panel. I know I’ll listen to it again, for inspiration and a bit of publishing gallows humor.

    Thank you to Mary, Bonnie, Shannon, Julie, and Jeff for your honest sharing, and for inspiring me to keep writing.

  2. Good morning, Lisa! You’e so welcome, and your message is inspiring, too! It’s rewarding to know that your words have touched someone else in a positive way. I’m sure the panel authors will feel the love, too, when they see your message. Thank you for sharing, and I’m wishing you joy and happiness with your writing!

  3. Thank you so much for this wonderful series, Janet. When we’re having a bad day….or a bad year, for that matter….we tend to wallow in our misery. Learning to shrug it all off and enjoy the moment is hard, but we can do it. Expressing gratitude every day for the good things as well as lessons learned from the bad things does help. I like the idea of a gratitude journal, which could be incorporated into daily morning pages.

    To start, I am so grateful that my hummingbird feeder finally attracted a visitor this summer. Sometimes joy comes in very tiny, fast-moving packages.

  4. You’re welcome, Pat. Don’t you love the little hummers? They’re a delight for the eyes *and* ears. Now I’m off to write in my own Gratitude Journal. 🙂

  5. So well said ! I was a bit bummed about something last week – can’t even remember what it was – and then had the most amazing, uplifting and supportive weekend (in South Dakota!) and felt so good the drive home felt like nothing. And I really can’t remember why I was a bit down. The bright side is always there. It never goes away.

  6. Mark, congrats on your rewarding weekend! Gratitude Journal for today: I’m happy for my writing friends, who let me know when my words shine.

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