Wagoner Writes

The Website of Author J Wagoner

Thank You, Mom’s Choice Awards® (or The Saga of the Self-published)


Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – I decided to set about writing a book, something that I had never done before.

Let’s rewind a bit first. In college, I took a creative writing course and my professor was not terribly fond of anything I wrote if it was not humorous. His exact advice was to never, ever try to write something serious again. I’m really not criticizing him since he was actually great, but the writer’s voice that I had at the time just could not do serious prose.

Fast forward some years, I wrote some awful short stories and would share them with people at work. Those of us who create know that it’s what can give us purpose, what can give us meaning in the dull world of paperwork and filing. In retrospect, though, it was a cruel thing for me to do since getting through the stories must have been tortuous for them. Yet, they were always polite and always encouraging. I have since deleted those files or have lost the floppies (“kids, before there was the cloud…”).

Fast forward even more and having come to realize that I had spent too much time inhabiting the left side of my brain with my work (and believe me, I worked a lot of hours), I decided that it was time to get that book written, that dream that always remained there hovering just above and behind as I moved from here to there in my life. The act of trying to write down words was a terrible struggle as though I was just learning to speak once again. So I quit trying.

Fast forward some years once again and I suffered a couple of personal tragedies. In that darkened space that I was inhabiting, I thought of the book that had only just been a hatchling and was no where near ready for flight. Awake at a late hour, I opened the file, read what was there, and like I had been gazing into a crystal ball, saw a complete story from beginning to end. I also saw that it was to be for children and not for us cynical adults.

Over many a late night after full days of left-brain-inhabiting work, I finished the story. All throughout the process, I kept telling myself that it was not good enough, that it was not the kind of book a child would understand, that I was not the right person to tell this important story. No one read the story for months after I finished it, but it was always there in my mind and would occasionally knock on the door to my conscious thought.

Eventually, I decided that I would hate myself if I did not at least submit the book to a few agents so I did. I had read the articles – I knew that the chances of a never-been-published author getting their attention when they receive thousands of submissions was incredibly low. Just as I thought, I received the “not right for us” emails from all of them (seriously, those rejection letters were just so darn polite).

More time passed and I had the thought that I should at least look into self publishing, but I was worried about the cost. The goal: sell one book to a person not on my Christmas list, change one life. Apparently, there were no upfront costs at all with the service that I used so I figured, why the heck not have a go at it? Through my work, I am very familiar with freelancer services so I looked at editors. Thankfully, like Indiana Jones staring at a collection of cups in the last good movie of the series, I chose wisely. Then, I investigated freelance illustrators and was incredibly fortunate to have a very talented artist agree to work with me.

With all of the pieces in place, I uploaded the print version of the book, created the eBook version for the Kindle, and put it out there in this world full of books with most of them probably being better than mine, in my mind. My editor had told me that my first effort was a very good one, but I had difficulty really believing her (sorry, Carol). I asked people I did not know to give honest reviews of the book and they apparently thought it was good, but again, I thought that they were just being polite to a new author. As I began receiving really positive reviews from people who had no reason to be polite or kind, I began thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was not so bad at this writing thing. At that point, I decided that I would take the chance and submit the book to the Mom’s Choice Awards®. At the very worst, I would lose my submission fee and they would just tell me that I should keep my day job (which is pretty fulfilling as well).

This brings us to the present where I recently learned that the Mom’s Choice Awards® awarded my book a Gold Medal. This is a big deal for me. Since learning about the award, I keep thinking to myself, “Holy crap, I won a Gold Medal.”

So to wrap up the longest thank you note in modern history, thank you so very much, Mom’s Choice Awards®. Truly. You understood what I was trying to say. You understood why I felt the story was an important one to tell.

Holy crap, I won a Gold Medal.