I came home from the reunion, thrilled to have bumbled into such an incredible story, invested three months researching and writing a book proposal about the madcap adventures of the China National Aviation Corporation, and had my agent submit it to a variety of publishers. To me, the story seemed incredible. I knew it was going to make a great book. I knew it was going to sell. I expected publishers to fall all over themselves in a frenzy to buy it, allowing me to focus my energies on writing the sort of book I’d always dreamed about authoring.
Instead, we heard nothing. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and still, we heard nothing. Hope leaked out of me as overwhelming, deafening, depressing silence came back from New York. The proposal failed. It didn’t sell.
I was astonished — and crushed. The three months of unpaid work I’d invested in writing an “on-spec” proposal pushed me over the freelance cliff. To make ends meet, I took a part time job. I still did as much magazine writing as I could sell, but even with that and the part time gig, it took me eighteen months to recover from the failure of the China’s Wings proposal. I’d had a divorce a year and a half before, I’d suffered an agonizing heartbreak since (they weren’t related events), I had a custody arrangement that didn’t allow me near enough time with my son, I was living in a grungy ground floor apartment, I wasn’t surfing or climbing, and I felt like I was failing as a writer. It was the lowest I’d ever been.