Thursday, July 26, 2007

A writer's dream come true

By Trish Milburn

Yesterday morning at around 10:20, while sleeping because I was suffering from a sinus infection and a fever, I got The Call. My agent called to tell me I'd sold my first two books, young adult titles, to Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin. How did this fabulous event come about? Here's the skinny.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away...

Okay, so it was really the 1990s, and I was in Kentucky, but whatever. I began writing my first romance manuscript when I was in college at good ol' Murray State University in Western Kentucky. It wasn't an everyday kind of endeavor at that point because, well, I had a lot of studying to do and typically held two jobs while I was at it. I continued to piddle after I graduated in 1993 and started my first job as a newspaper reporter while the hubby did the grad school thing. The piddling continued when we moved to Tennessee in 1995 and I began working in the marketing department of an insurance company.

But in 1996, my local RWA chapter formed,I became a member of RWA, and I started learning more about the business and craft of writing. I continued to write when I left the insurance company and went back to journalism as a writer and editor at a magazine. I left that job 2 1/2 years ago to freelance write and edit, believing I was on the verge of sale (one of those that fell through.) Now, 11 years after beginning to submit to publishing houses, I finally have sold my first two books. Not the first two I wrote. Those are safely tucked away in the deep recesses of my computer and on floppy disks (yep, floppy disks). I've written 18 full manuscripts since beginning to submit to editors, and there have definitely been days when I got rejections or felt I was "thisclose" to selling only to have it fall through that the thought of just chucking it all occurred to me. I'm so glad I didn't. I will forevermore be the queen of preaching perseverance to other writers. After a point, if you are getting good critiques and finaling in or winning contests, you've got the grasp on craft you need to be published. You just have to find the right editor at the right time with the right project while continually studying the business side of the industry and endeavoring to always push your writing to the next level.

I'm, of course, not the only writer who has taken the long and winding road to getting published. My good friend Merrillee Whren, who writes for Silhouette Love Inspired, wrote for 15 years before getting published. Super YA and paranormal author Stephanie Rowe, like me, wrote 18 manuscripts before selling, and now she's a multi RITA finalist. I owe Stephanie a lot because she encouraged me to write young adult books, and that's what got me my agent and, three years later, my first sale. She also nearly hyperventilated on the phone when I called to tell her and sent me these beautiful flowers today.

I have so many friends who are in the boat I was in two days ago -- they're super talented, they've finaled in and won lots of contests, and they've completed lots of books. I'll do whatever I can to help them climb from that boat into this new boat. I'm hoping they get that wonderful, unbelievable call very soon.


Anna Campbell said...

Trish, I've congratulated you privately but I'll congratulate you again on the Bandita forum because this is the sort of news that makes you want to stand up and cheer and do cartwheels and generally make a complete fool of yourself. Although I'm not sure I'll admit to 'piddling' ;-) Ever since you told us, I've had a big smile on my face. Because you absolutely deserve it. You worked hard. You pushed yourself to the next level. You persisted when it would have been just so much easier to give up (believe me, I know!). You volunteered to help your fellow writers through RWA. I can't wait to see your books in a shop and go, "She's my Bandita buddy. Ain't she a cool dude?" And if people don't agree with me (although of course, they will!), I'll sic my pet koala on them! So there! Well done, my friend! Couldn't happen to a nicer person!

Anna x

Anonymous said...


You are definitely an inspiration. I can't believe you had the faith to keep going, and what a sweet reward! Two sales in one day! Definitey goes to show that sometimes the best writers in the world have to wait to hit the right time and the right editor.

I can't wait to see the covers, read the books, and hear about all the ones yet to to come.

Big big hugs,

Jill James said...

Trish, the flowers are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your dream. I'll save what you said on those days my dreams feel far away and not getting any closer.

Tawny said...


Doing the butt-wiggling, hip-swinging, arm-waving happy dance *g*

Trish - you deserve this and all the fabulous successes I know are flying your way. You rock, I can't wait to see the covers, babble to everyone I know about your books and then cuddle up to read them!


Christine Wells said...


And yes, I am shouting because I'm so excited for you. Remember that post about fence-sitting a couple of months back? How inspirational to look at that and see in hindsight how close you were to publication when you wrote it.

Happy dancing in my woolly socks down here in Oz! I hope you're celebrating in style.

Keira Soleore said...

Trish, woo hoo!! I was the one howling from the back of the ballroom when they called your name ten days ago. :)

What a great "first call" story.

Quick facts about Trish:
-Where did you get that gorgeous orange gown?
-Is orange your favorite color? I notice your flowers have a lot of orange to them.
-Would you've had two "first sale" ribbons if the conference were tomorrow? :)

FoAnna, that caramello koala is great for the fans, just not great with the foes.

Banditas, this site needs video capability. A lot of dancing going on--no visuals.

Helen said...

Congratulations Trish I am very happy for you. You have worked really hard to get there and it is well deserved.
Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Keira, given how you bit his head off, my pet koala is SCARED of you! ;-)

Banditas, let's do something about the video capability! The dancing should be seen!

Christie Kelley said...


I just had to congratulate you again because I'm so excited for you. I've been watching your career since I met you in Knoxville three years ago. And I just knew it was going to happen for you.

You really are an inspiration to all of us.

I can't wait to see the cover up on the Bandit page and read that book!

Beth said...

Whoo Hoo! Congratulations, Trish! You so deserve this and I just know you'll have many more successes to celebrate in the future!

My girls can't wait to read your books and neither can I *g*

Congrats again!!

Beth said...

LOL, Keira! My husband assured me just yesterday that no one can see into our house during the day (I write in front of two windows) because I was worried people were watching me chair dancing (no relation to pole dancing) which is what happens when I listen to music while I write *g*

So, that very long sentence is my way of saying I'm not sure you'd want to have any video of ME shaking my groove thang ;-)

Caren Crane said...

Trish, this is the culmination of so much work and determination that it really is inspirational to those of us still AYU!

I recall too well watching as you met your future agent for the first time at the Mountain Laurel conference. We all knew, as you two talked into the evening, that it was happening as we watched!

I was thrilled for you then and am even more thrilled for you now. This is just the first step in a long, successful career. Congratulations again, and please keep preaching perseverance to us! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Keira, I don't know about Trish, but orange is definitely my favorite color! I was sporting a spiffy orange leather purse at conference and a number of orange outfits, including my awards ceremony salwar kameez!

I'm also a native Tennessean, so Big Orange is close to my heart. My high school colors were orange, black and white. I didn't appreciate the orange at the time, but do now!

Um, and you don't want to see us dancing on video, necessarily. We'd best save that for in-person meetings!

Christie Kelley said...


You were at the Mountain Laurel conference the same year I was and I don't think we ever met! I still remember all the buzz about Trish meeting Michelle.

MaryF said...

Okay, NOW I'm crying. I'm so proud of you!

Anna Sugden said...


I'm happy dancing for you here in NJ and have been since I heard your wonderful news. (The cats are bemused by all this whooping and prancing, Keira, so I'm not sure the world is ready for VA on video!)

As so many others have said - I can't think of anyone who deserves it more than you. You've worked so hard, persevered, volunteered and encouraged the rest of us. What's more - your writing is fabulous (I'm still holding out hope that The Wishing Tree makes it on to the shelves because it is truly wonderful!)

You're an inspiration to us all.

Can't wait to follow your journey as your books get published and to rush out and buy them!

So proud of you!


Trish Milburn said...

Thanks SO much, everyone. I just smile like a giant goofball when I read these comments.

Keira, I got the dress at a consignment shop that I've gotten formal gowns at before. Unfortunately, that shop has since burned down, but I think it's relocated. I had absolutely no intention of getting an orange gown when I went in, but it fit well and was comfortable, so I bought it. Orange isn't my favorite color, but I like it fine. I live in Tennessee (home of Big Orange), but I'm a native Kentuckian so tend to like blue instead. :) On the ribbons, you only get one First Sale ribbon, but that's okay. I'm SO going to enjoy that ribbon next summer.

Christie and Caren, I remember that Knoxville conference like it was yesterday. I'd met my agent before, but the timing wasn't right at that point. But I had such a good experience talking with her the second time that she called me the next day to offer representation -- and she's finally getting a reward (and payment!) for sticking with my unpublished self for three long years.

Now look, I've done gone and made Mary cry again. I'm going to have to buy her some tissue. :)

Trish Milburn said...

Anna, you are so good for my ego. :) I talked to Janice yesterday, and she said you texted her the news. Cool! I don't even know how to text on my phone.

Kate Carlisle said...

Trish, Congratulations again!!! And again and again!!

I'll just say *ditto* to what everyone else has said. You absolutely deserve this success. Your persistence and your generosity and willingness to help other writers is truly inspiring.

And hey, I'm doing a wild spinning happy dance here in Venice Beach but uh, that's pretty much what everyone else does around here on any given day. Maybe if I wrapped a snake around my shoulders...*g*

Anna Sugden said...

LOl - I knew Janice was without email and that she would 'bust her buttons' to know you had sold!

Caren Crane said...

Christie, I thought that was the conference you meant. Small world, huh? Though, looking back, I'm not surprised we didn't meet. I was rooming with my two (at the time) critique partners. I don't think it was a great networking time for me. *g*

Plus, one of my CPs had an editor at the conference salivating for her stuff, so we were all a bit distracted! I'm glad to know that all those seeds we plant over the years really do bear fruit. It may have taken three years, Trish, but Michelle will have no trouble selling you in the future. And you have 18 manuscripts in your back pocket. Things just don't get better!

Unless you manage to sell to another house as well, of course. *g*

Edie said...

Trish, like so many others, I just want to say congratulations again! What an inspriting story. Thank you for sharing.

Christine Wells said...

OK, Keira! For the bandita happy dance, go to:

I think it might be Jeanne in the video, what do you think?

Gillian said...

Hi, I watched you win the Golden Heart at Dallas, and now to read this blog--you have made my week, if not my month. I may have to print it out and paste it by my desk. What an awesome "don't quit!" story. Congratulations!

Donna MacMeans said...

Trish - Major, major congratulations! I took your blog about perseverance to heart and determined to work that blogger profile until I could get my cover to show up by my name. We'll see when I hit submit. I'm so looking forward to congratulating you all over again in San Francisco when you get to where that pink ribbon.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Trish, I'm thrilled for you! 18 years is a long time, but well worth it when the call comes through, huh? A friend of mine, Nancy Haddock, just sold this year after writing for 23 years.

And like Donna, I took your perseverance blog to heart, too. Only mine was to finish my WIP and keep submitting.

Enjoy the celebration, but ehem...get writing this week. You now have deadlines!!

Anna Campbell said...

Hello, my friend Gillian! Great news about Trish, isn't it? I think we've all had a huge dose of inspiration from her persistence and talent winning out!

Stacy S said...

CONGRATULATIONS!! That's wonderful.

Aunty Cindy said...

Trust me, Keira, you do NOT wanna see your old Aunty "get down and boogey!" Definitely NOT a pretty sight...

DITTO to what everyone has been saying about Trish (and I've said all over the place) being SOOO DESERVING! Can't WAIT to read the books!

Here's hoping this is a Bandita TREND! Christie made her first sale in June and now we have Trish in July. Can't WAIT to see who sells in AUGUST!

Polishing that crystal ball for all it's worth

TinaFerraro said...

Trish, allow me to add congratulations! Although we only met briefly at breakfast with Anna at National, I've heard your name and seen it in contest finals for years. I'm really touched by your story (18 mss!) and how you stuck in there through good times and bad.

A big hug and some cyber bubbly to you!

Joan said...


Chiming in a bit late but I too am so thrilled at your success!

You're an inspiration to us all not only because of preseverance, but as an outstanding PRO liasion this past year!

Gosh, now I guess you'll have to run for PAN liasion!

And Banditas....since Trish has a sore footie, we need to put her in a chair like the Greeks do and dance around...

Course....that might be a hard one if we salsa! Carumba!

doglady said...

Late to the party, but celebrating, nonetheless!! My fellow Passion's Slave,Gillian,e-mailed me to "hie myself over to Romance Bandits" to read this wonderful post. Huge CONGRATS, Miss Trish! (That's a Southern thing,for the uninitiated.)I WILL print your post and put it on my desk. Every time I get ready to throw in the towel, I will read it and remember! Thank you so much for sharing this monumental day with those of us still slogging in the trenches. Cannot wait to buy those books!! Now,as my dear friend, Anna Campbell has given me orders to "Finish the damned book!" I am off to write!! Again, heartfelt and well-deserved CONGRATULATIONS!

Keira Soleore said...

Keira wrote, "FoAnna, that caramello koala is great for the fans, just not great with the foes."
Anna wrote, "Actually, Keira, given how you bit his head off, my pet koala is SCARED of you!"

You know me and my Ozzie (Osb) tendencies.... :)

(Don't say I didn't warn y'all about my bad puns.)

Phew! Beth, I'm glad you clarified that chair dancing and pole dancing are entirely different entities.

Caren, the only reason orange pops out at me is because it's my favorite color along with yellow. That was your photo in that gorgeous outfit in the post-award BASH in one of your rooms, right? Oooh! You must show me your orange stash next year.

And er, Banditas, Caren has just voted for an in-person dance-a-thon from all of you for all of your fans at SF, and Christine and Joan have set the range of dance numbers I'm expecting to see. AC, sorry, but you were volunteered. So who's going to do the bunny hip-hop? :)

Keira Soleore said...

Trish, you looked gorgeous up there on the stage in your gown. I'm looking forward to seeing you with your pink ribbon and signing copies of your books.

Trish Milburn said...

Thanks SO much for all of the additional congrats on here since I checked earlier in the day. You all are so incredibly sweet. I have a feeling I'm going to be preaching perseverance until the end of my time. Never throw in the towel! Write and submit until the towel is ragged, then buy a new towel. :) (I'm having visions of giving a towel to Dobbie the house elf from Harry Potter. Hee hee.)

Keira, thanks for the compliment on the orange dress. Hey, maybe next year I'll wear pink to go with my pink ribbon. :) I actually probably won't buy a dress next year since I won't be up for anything. Oh wait, maybe I'll be asked to present. Cool!

Authorness said...

Congratulations, Trish! My buddy Anna C had told me so many lovely things about you. Can't wait to read your books!

:) Vanessa

jo lewis-robertson said...

Trish, I wanted to say again, congratulations on your fabulous sales. Your story is truly an inspiration for those of us tempted to give up.

This is a hard business, and with so many fine writers out there, our greatest ally is our perserverance. Thanks for reminding us of that.

Cassondra said...

Coming to the blog late because of work, but I wanted to add my cheers here. It's been said. Never had a sale been more deserved. Trish, those workshops you do on writing five minutes at a time if you have to--you're living proof that it pays! Still dancing and warm inside all the way up here in Kentucky! HUGE Congratulations!