Publishing Beware the Hawk

And the Defining Moments Series continues! A.J. O’ Connell, who was previously kind enough to write a guest blog for this series- on having two names– is back to discuss another defining moment in her life. I know A.J. because we both attended Fairfield University’s incredible MFA program. I’m so proud of her for recently publishing her first novella, and I couldn’t be more excited to promote it (you can purchase it here for only $2.99!!) on my blog.

The day my novella, Beware the Hawk, went up for sale on Amazon was the day I realized that I could not take the book back.

It sounds like a strange and ungrateful realization for an author to have.

I sent the manuscript to my publisher, Vagabondage Press, in September, with the hope that it would be published. I proofread the galleys in December, knowing that the book would be published. I promoted the book in January, because I wanted people to read it once it was published. All I’ve ever wanted to do is write  – and publish – fiction.

And then, one day before my official release date, when Amazon put my book up for sale and people actually started buying it, I started to panic a little.

I watched the comments on Facebook as friends spread the word that my book was for sale. Some people even bought it and started reading it on the same day.

I was elated, but in the back of my mind, something clicked: This novella, this story that sat idle on my computer for eight years, while I and I alone had access to the plot and the characters, could no longer be edited. I would no longer be able to make changes. If someone didn’t like it, I couldn’t make it better. It was published.

A little voice in the back of my brain, a voice I didn’t even know I had, started wailing “It’s not perfect. What if they hate it?”

I couldn’t believe my own reaction. I thought I’d been hardened by years of workshop, and it’s not like I hadn’t been cautioned about this. I’ve been hearing the Warning for as long as I’ve wanted to be a writer. If you’re an artist, you’ve probably heard it too.  It goes a little like this: “Once you put your work out there, you cease to have complete control over it. Other people have a stake in it. Other peoples develop opinions about it. You have to let it go.”

In other words, your work is no longer living in the safety of your head, and is no longer even in the relative safety of a writers’ workshop. It’s out in the big bad world, where some people will love it, some people will hate it and some people will remain indifferent to it.

Being published means accepting that, and I think, accepting your own fears about your work and yes, now I know that I have these fears. On the flip side, there is a thrill in knowing that the characters I invented are roaming around in the heads of other people.

I’m elated to know that other people are living in the same imaginary world I created 10 years ago, and I can’t wait to publish something else.

Congrats, A.J. on this incredible accomplishment. I hope many of you will go and purchase the novella. It’s cheaper than a cup of coffee, but will keep you happier for much longer. Also, even more exciting news. I interviewed A.J. after reading this guest blog, and will be posting the interview TOMORROW! So check back tomorrow morning!

On a side note, I’ve decided to start accepting submissions again for the Defining Moments Series. I’ll write more about it in a couple of days, but if you think you would like to contribute, get in touch with me.


  1. Erin Cameron says:

    Ahh, The Warning. I think the biggest thing that holds me back from submitting – I’m not scared of rejection, but I’m terrified of success. Success – having something published – takes the game to a different level, and the stakes are so much higher. What will people think of my work? What if I don’t find the same success with the next book/story/piece? Etc?

    To carry on with your Disney/fairytale idea, it all reminds me of a lyric line from Wicked (the musical):

    “But I couldn’t be happier / Simply couldn’t be happier / Well – not ‘simply’:
    (sung) ‘Cause getting your dreams / It’s strange, but it seems / A little – well – complicated
    There’s a kind of a sort of : cost / There’s a couple of things get: lost
    There are bridges you cross / You didn’t know you crossed / Until you’ve crossed”

      • Erin Cameron says:

        I love the show (I know it’s different from the book, but that doesn’t bother me – they’re different mediums, blah blah blah), and that lyric just popped into my head as I was reading her post. I’ve been following AJ’s blog tour – we met last year, and have become e-buddies – and I’ve found some good blogs (yours included) as a result.

        And yay! for people named Erin. I only wish that I had thought of this blog name before you did 🙂

        • erin says:

          I can’t even begin to describe to you how long it took to name this blog! I had been blogging under a different name before this, but had mixed feelings about that blog, so when it was time to change over I STRESSED about the new name. I wanted one that would be able to stay with me forever, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. I had a couple of great contenders, but really…. aren’t we all always reinventing ourselves? Even if we don’t expect or want to, we are all changed by our environment.
          Well, glad to “meet” you, Erin!

  2. A.J. says:

    Oh wow. This is the comment thread of Erins. And actually, I was going to respond to each of you by using your first name and last initial, but then I realized that you’re both Erin Cs. So I’ll call you MFA Erin and AWP Erin, since that’s how I met each of you.

    AWP Erin – Love the “Wicked” song. I’m so glad that you’ve heard The Warning and have the same fear of success. That fear of success is actually what makes revisions so hard for me. I know I did a passable job on the first draft, and I’m afraid I will ruin it by revising it, which is silly.

    MFA Erin – Once, again, thank you for having me. And you should totally check out AWP Erin’s blog. It’s very writerly. She’s in an MFA program as well, and has just finished her thesis.

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