Tuesday, December 8, 2020

My Publishing Journey by Phyllis L Humby

A writer’s life is indeed a journey and despite the potholes and detours, the scenery makes the trip worthwhile. Years later, though I hadn’t attracted a traditional publisher en route, my efforts had fulfilled me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Only a seasoned writer can make that statement with conviction.

Let me explain.

I was eager to do whatever it took to get my novel noticed. I started blogging, opened a Facebook page, and most importantly, I joined a local writers’ group.

They convinced me to submit short stories, which for me were more challenging to write than novels. I was fortunate to find homes for most of them in anthologies and journals. The contest wins encouraged me to continue.

Then I penned some exposés of my long-ago career as a small-town lingerie boutique owner to share at weekly writers’ meetings. The members urged me to keep writing these stories, insisting I was onto something. Each memory led to another until I was re-living the 80s and 90s fashion trade, a different life in a different lifetime. My reminiscences filled a book. The memoir was added to my growing list of finished manuscripts, which now included a thriller, a mystery, and a contemporary novel with sequel.

In hopes of attracting an agent or publisher, I’d sporadically send query letters. They garnered encouraging comments but no contract. Then a short story caught the attention of Simon and Schuster, which resulted in a call for the full manuscript of my psychological thriller. It was exciting while it lasted but they ultimately passed.

I continued writing a humorous monthly column based on everyday life, “Up Close and Personal,” for a local magazine. But after eight years I identified more as a columnist than a novelist. I finally faced reality.

On that perfect summer’s day as my husband and I relaxed on the verandah, I told him of my decision. I could never stop writing but I’d no longer submit my work for publishing. He understood and commiserated. 

It had been a wonderful experience with unforgettable events, new friendships, and stimulating self-discovery. I’d joyously celebrated every small success along the way making my adventure both rewarding and pleasurable. And now it was over.

Incredibly, within an hour of my disclosure, one of my writer tribe sent news of a contest for crime stories and there were only two days until deadline. I had one story that fit their criteria. Should I or shouldn’t I? I might as well, I told my husband. Then I’m done.

As luck would have it, my story won second place. The small press in the United States who held the contest was interested in seeing longer works of mine. Was I setting myself up for another rejection? It’s hard to explain how I felt but I sent them two manuscripts, my contemporary novel and the crime thriller, and kept my expectations low. When they informed me they’d like to publish the contemporary fiction Old Broad Road I was stunned.

A couple of months later my husband nudged me to send out another query. Why not, he said. I searched online for Canadian small presses seeking memoirs and emailed a query along with the Hazards of the Trade manuscript. The next morning I received astounding news. Crossfield Publishing liked the memoir and wanted to publish it.

Two acceptances from two publishers from two countries for two different books being released within two months of each other. Crazy! My heart raced.

It made sense for these two small publishers to combine their marketing efforts. After their talks, it was decided that the Canadian press would release both my titles. My novel Old Broad Road would not be released until after the memoir Hazards of the Trade hit the shelves.

Life was idyllic. My publisher and the local indie bookstore planned an afterhour’s event to celebrate the launch of my memoir. Words of congratulations came to me from old friends, new friends, readers of my column, my writer tribe... Everyone was excited for me. What could possibly go wrong?

We’ve all heard the adage, If it’s too good to be true then…

But a global pandemic? That’s impossible. Except it isn’t. Covid-19 rocked the world and weeks before my celebration the social distancing advisory was put in place. I had an isolated pity party and then got over it. How could I whine about a cancelled book launch when people were losing their lives to this virus?

The health of loved ones and the state of the world now occupied my mind and I resigned to the fact that my memoir wouldn’t be published as scheduled. Or maybe ever. To my surprise, Crossfield Publishing did not intend to abandon my book. They’d do everything in their power to follow through on their promise to me. The actual launch was cancelled but the book was released as scheduled. Until they’re able to distribute it, readers can purchase Hazards of the Trade online through the Crossfield Publishing website. The Book Keeper, my local indie bookstore, is also selling the memoir from their website until their store can re-open.

It’s been an incredible journey and I’m blessed to be a published author. I appreciate the effort of Crossfield Publishing, my readers, and the support of the writing community, including Women Writers, Women’s Books to make my dream come true.


Phyllis’s memoir, Hazards of the Trade and her novel, Old Broad Road, are available from Crossfield Publishing here. {And what great presents they’d make!}

Visit Phyllis' Author Facebook page here and her Hazards of the Trade Facebook page here


See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including Saturday writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, New Tecumseth, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


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