Success Story with Lorna Nicholson
Lorna Schultz Nicholson is a full-time writer who has published over 30 books, including children's picture books, middle grade, YA fiction, and sports non-fiction. She divides her time between Edmonton and Penticton, where she and her husband share their homes with their crazy Mexican dog, Poncho, and a whiny bichon-shih tzu named Molly.
A hunger to succeed
Like any artist, writers in the beginning of their careers have this hunger inside of them to “make it.” But what does that really mean?
When I first started out, I desperately wanted to be published as a mystery writer. That was what I thought “making it” meant. If only I was published. Was I ever wrong about that. My path took a weird little deviation. My first published book ended up being a children’s hockey novel instead of an adult mystery novel. The directional change just flowed and happened. Of course, I was happy to have a publishing contract and was thrilled for my new release.
When I held that first children’s sport book in my hands, I thought… now what?
I wanted people to read my book. That was my next hunger pang. It’s been fifteen years since my first book got published, and I can honestly admit, the hunger doesn’t go away. It maybe subsides and changes as the years go by, as other books get published, but it creeps in now and again. And that is because writing is a journey and not a destination. There is no end point.
Writing is a journey
In the beginning, I would send my work off and, yes, collect those rejection letters. I can remember one coming in the mail, and I picked it up at our mailbox with my three children in the vehicle. Silly me, I opened it right then and there—and so came the tears. My eldest daughter asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?” I crumpled the letter, tossed it in the trash bag with the juice containers and said, “I’m not crying.”
But I did cry. It’s a hard road. A thick skin is so necessary. I wasn’t the overnight success story that I would read about in Writer’s Digest. I think, as writers, we need to realize all our realities are different. Some writers find success young, others after the age of sixty. Some writers get nominated for the Giller Prize, others write those important reluctant readers for children. One is not better than the other. That is an early mistake: comparing. Don’t compare. Just write what you want to write and take your success for what it is. Now, I look at the hunger as learning, and I’m okay with it, because I know it will go away if I take the time to get better at my craft, even try a new genre. I look at it as excitement. The thrill of the written word is what it is all about.
My early stumbles involved expecting too much too soon (yeah, I wanted to be on Oprah and on the New York Times bestseller list, and sell a million copies… etc.). I would think that because I wasn’t on a bestseller list, or nominated for an award, or that my book wasn’t on Chapters’ front table, (or even on their shelves—big sigh), that I wasn’t successful. I didn’t take that one comment from a student or teacher who said, “I loved your book,” as success. We need to celebrate the big and the little moments, because they are gone quickly. That one comment does count, so celebrate it.
Every book is a new experience
I really don’t think I’ve ever had a breakthrough moment, where I thought I’d arrived. I’m still learning, trying new genres, looking at new ways to write. I guess in a way, I hope I never have a breakthrough moment, because I don’t want to ever stop learning something new. I have no plans of retiring from writing. Each and every book is a new experience that I have learned to love. No matter the genre or the contract.
The biggest surprise for me is that I learned how much I love editing. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. Early on, I would look at the editorial comments as proof that I was a failure, that I couldn’t write. Why didn’t I get it right the first time? How could I be so bad at this? Now, I can’t wait to get my notes, because I know they will make for a better book. That is one thing I love to tell students when I do school visits. Accept the comments from your teacher as a gift. They only want to make you better.
The journey continues
My latest two books are Just Three, a hi-lo Orca Currents for middle-grade students, and a non-fiction book about PK Subban that is part of my Amazing Hockey Series. When I first started publishing, I wrote a lot of hi-lo books for reluctant readers. Then I moved on to writing longer, more in-depth books, including my One-2-One novel series, and the non-fiction book Grit and Glory: Celebrating 40 Years of the Edmonton Oilers. Recently I returned to the reluctant reader book because I liked the idea for the story and felt it belonged in this genre. It is a funny read, and humour is also something that is a little new for me, which made the process fun.
I’m still on my writing journey and I’m learning every day.
What is success?
I’m still not sure, so I’ll just keep writing.