When I was in 2nd grade, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which caused severe visual impairment. Up to that point, I was your typical scrawny urchin. I grew up in the desert of Southern New Mexico and I spent most of my childhood playing in the dirt. But after the diagnosis, many things changed. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that nothing about my life was typical. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Growing up with a disability in a small town could have been a disaster. But my parents weren’t about to let my disability become a crutch. They believed in me and they taught me to believe in myself. I was instilled with the idea that I could do anything that I set my mind to. OK, so maybe I’ll never be able to drive a car, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s hardly been a setback. I was taught never to say “I can’t” but rather to think creatively about “how can I?”
And it’s with that attitude that I decided to take my writing career full-time. That’s not to say I haven’t agonized over things like income (or lack thereof), expenses (far outreaching the income), rejections (both the encouraging and the soul-draining) and all the other trappings of the writer’s life. But when I start to feel discouraged, I look at my life and all the things I’ve managed to do and I won’t let myself give up.
In practical terms, I realized early on that I would need to treat my writing career as a business. I’d always dreamed about being a novelist (and also a Supreme Court Justice, but that’s another story), but I was realistic enough to recognize that writing novels wouldn’t put food on my table (at least not in the short-term). So I took a magazine writing class taught by Kerrie Flannigan and started applying the lessons learned. I queried. I brainstormed. I wrote. A few months after taking Kerrie’s class, I sold my first story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shortly thereafter, I became a regular contributor to Novelty Bride Magazine and ESME.com. Whether it was in print or online, paid or unpaid, if someone gave me something to write, I wrote it. And as my publication credits grew, the money started tricking in.
I took advantage of NaNoWriMo one November to push myself through the first draft of a novel, all the while still writing articles and submitting queries. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been working my tail off for the past few years. I spent months revising and then more months querying agents. I got tons of encouragement attached to a whole lot of rejection, but the encouragement kept me grounded. I can accept a “not for me” any day.
Then, at the beginning of 2016, I decided I needed to move on to other projects and I was either going to have to put my novel on the backburner or take the plunge and self-publish. Being the impulsive and impatient person that I am, I decided to put the book out in the world and see what happened. Having a decade of experience in marketing definitely made me less scared of the process. But I didn’t now how steep the learning curve was. I think I’ve learned more this year, both in my successes and my utter fails, than I ever imagined. For all the published authors out there, my hat’s off to you. Writing is the easy part.
On June 28, my first novel Wallflower Blooming will be re-released under the Wooden Pants Publishing imprint and in July, I’m getting married. What a crazy, wonderful year! It’s been a year of possibilities and I’d like to think that I’ve been open to all the opportunities that have been presented. I still have my blue days when I feel the pressure bearing down on me, but that’s what mental health days, friends, chocolate and glasses of wine were made for, right? As long as I tell myself I can do anything I put my mind to, I can.
Amy Rivers was born and raised in southern New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado. Her interest in social issues and violence prevention led to a Master’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Politics. Amy has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, Novelty Bride Magazine, ESME.com and Splice Today. Wallflower Blooming is her first novel.
Learn more about Amy and her writing at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.