I had the pleasure of hearing a plenary address from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich last evening. In the history world Ulrich is known for her work on early American women, and in particular her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Midwife's Tale.
Most people don't know that she's the person who coined the phrase: "Well behaved women rarely make history."
For all the accolades she's received Ulrich is an incredibly humble and gracious woman. In her remarks she had two points to offer that I thought were particularly salient to aspiring authors.
One: "You're not in this alone."
The writing world is a collaborative one. What would we do without families cheering us on, beta readers giving hard, but fair critiques, fellow bloggers sharing their experiences and aspirations, agents championing our work? Writing is often a solitary activity, but at the end of the day we're part of a community that we couldn't survive without.
Two: "You can't be rejected when you know you belong."
This point derives from the fact that Ulrich's prize-winning book examined the life of Martha Ballard, an eighteenth-century midwife whose existence had been dismissed as "unimportant" by historians for decades. Laurel Ulrich brought Ballard's harrowing experiences into the world at a time when women's history had barely drawn its first breath and still had many years to fight for the legitimacy of its existence.
Writers face rejection constantly. The mantra of authors, agents, editors, and writing gurus remains the same - keep writing. We write because we have to. We write because we know we belong. It will happen, keep writing, keeping dreaming.
And finally, in honor of Utah (where I'm at a conference for the weekend), I give you one of my favorite teen dance vids from bygone days when I had big hair and I wish you all "Something Good."