~ By Kristina Mathews
I love baseball. From t-ball to the Major League, I love the game. The history, the mathematics, the physics. I love that there is no clock, except to note the time of the first pitch. The game ends when it is over, when the last out has been recorded. It could be a 1-0 shutout or a 10-9 walk-off homerun to win it in extra innings. There are 162 games in a Major League season and no team will win them all. But with hard work, persistence and a little bit of luck, a team can win it all.
One of the things I love most about baseball is that it is never over until it is over. Perseverance is the most important trait a baseball player can have. Not size or strength or superhuman talent. Sure, those things help, but the biggest asset a player has is the ability to never give up.
The same thing can be said about writing. Or any dream worth pursuing.
I started my first romance novel twenty years ago. Just playing around, really, as a way to entertain myself when I was first married and we didn’t have cable. Just baseball on the radio and my imagination. The first book I ever finished was an inspirational secret-baby spy thriller with a lot of navel contemplating and wine induced flashbacks. It was horrible, except for the last two words “The End.”
Finally in 2010 I finished my second book. This time I felt like I could take the next step—publication. While researching agents and publishers, I discovered Romance Writers of America. They had a chapter that met in Sacramento. I couldn’t make the next meeting, because it was opening day of Little League, but I signed up as a guest for the following month.
I’’ve met many amazing and welcoming writers. I felt completely over my head, but also like I belonged there. I’ve learned about the craft and business of writing about how to pitch (not a baseball, but a book) and finally after four years, Better Than Perfect was published.
But I almost gave up on this book. I’d received several rejections, most of them as a form letter. I got a few suggestions, encouraging me to keep writing but I wasn’t quite there yet. I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t sure what was wrong with my book. I was getting requests to my queries, but then…nothing. So I was really excited to win a critique by an author on a blog I follow.
I sent off my first 50 pages to her at the same time as a few agent and editor requests. I got a couple of rejections, again generic. One even spelled my name wrong and it ended up in my spam folder.
But I kept at it. Savvy Authors hosted a “Pitch Perfect” event the month of April. They set up several agents and editors to take pitches on their website. I got two requests right away, and sent the required partial or full manuscript. One of the editors I pitched to didn’t post the results right away, so I had to check back.
In the meantime, I got my critique back. It was like my dental hygienist—very thorough and painful. I couldn’t finish reading it. I know she was trying to be helpful, but I was pretty down. I figured my hero was destined for the disabled list, maybe permanently. I was working on the second book in the series, but I stalled out around chapter ten. I wasn’t ready to give up, but I felt like I was down to my last strike.
I checked the Savvy Authors website and sure enough, the last editor wanted to read my manuscript. I sent it, thinking if I was going to go down, I’d go down swinging.
The next day she sent me a quick e-mail telling me how much she looked forward to reading it.
About a week later she’d finished reading it. I read the e-mail skimming past the words “I loved it” waiting for the “but.”
There was no “but.” She wanted my book.
A week later I had signed the contract with Lyrical Press.
So yeah, sometimes you can be down to your last strike, and with one swing of the bat (or click of the mouse) you can hit one out of the park.
Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.