Augusta Scattergood (Glory Be, Making Friends with Billy Wong) emailed me awhile back, raving about a friend’s new book. “It’s sooo good,” she said. Well, if Augusta recommends something, that’s the gold standard! I immediately asked for the friend’s email address and that friend — Linda Williams Jackson — agreed to be today’s Friend Friday guest. We are celebrating her first book, a novel of historical fiction, Midnight Without a Moon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers). Here’s what Kirkus says about the book, “The ugly brutality of Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones….Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative.” Lucky for all of us, this powerful book is now out — you will want to add it to your collection!
The Winner’s Circle ~ Linda Williams Jackson
Anyone who has known me for a while knows that it took me six long, tearful years to find an agent and get a book deal. During my journey, I watched many of my cyber friends get agents and book deals. But no matter how much I wrote, queried, rewrote, studied writing, prayed, cried, then washed, rinsed, and repeated, I simply couldn’t break through that glass ceiling that I secretly labeled “Agented-Published-Author.”
One day, as I surfed the waves of Cyberspace, I came across a couple of publishing announcements from writers I knew. I should have been happy…celebrating with them. Instead, I was down, sad, melancholy…. I felt as if everyone was “making it” in publishing, except me. I needed inspiration, a pick-me-up. So I picked up my copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive, said a prayer, and randomly opened to the story “Chutes and Ladders” by Hollye Dexter.
In case you are unfamiliar with Chutes and Ladders, it is a children’s game where each player attempts to be the first to the top to the winner’s spot. Along the way to the top, a player might encounter either chutes or ladders. The ladders help you climb to the top, but the chutes send you spiraling back to the bottom.
In her Chicken Soup story, Ms. Dexter, herself was doing exactly what I was doing: throwing a pity party about publishing, or the lack of getting published, I should say. One day, while she played a game of Chutes and Ladders with her son, she made a profound observation. Just because one person has made it to the top–the winner’s spot–doesn’t mean the other player can’t continue playing the game until he or she reaches the top, too. After she reached the top, she asked her son to keep playing and finish the game. Her son replied, “But I lost, Mommy.” And to this, she replied, “Just because one person makes it to the top first, doesn’t mean the rest of us lose. You keep going.”
What inspiration! Ms. Dexter’s story goes on to say, “I believe the winner’s circle still looms up there for every one of us. Some of us may take a long time to get there…. The journey will look different for all of us…. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find our own way, and persevere.”
Thanks to Hollye Dexter I kept playing the “publishing” game until I, like my friends, reached the winner’s circle. For six long years I wrote, queried, cried, rewrote, then queried some more. No matter how many times I slid down a chute, I kept going until I reached another ladder. Eventually, I climbed enough ladders to reach the top and enter The Winner’s Circle.
Like Hollye Dexter, I, too, believe there is a spot in The Winner’s Circle for anyone who continues to work hard and believe. So keep climbing, friends. Keep climbing.
Linda Williams Jackson is the author of MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, January 3, 2017) and the forthcoming sequel A SKY FULL OF STARS (January 2, 2018). She makes her home in a not-so-small city in northern Mississippi, where she dotes on her husband Jeff and their three children. And sometimes she even pampers their cat, Knoxville. Connect with her at www.jacksonbooks.com or on Twitter at @LindaWJackson.