Friday, August 19, 2011

The Long Wait

photo by Valorie Smith

Melinda Palacio

I’ve spent the last five years waiting for my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, to be published. My first task was to finish the book, something I accomplished after completing the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship. In 2007, I entered the program with two creative writing publications: one poem and one short story, accepted for the anthology: Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature. The EV fellowship came with writing classes, working with a mentor, the support of six writers, and author evenings to show us the ropes. Some of the author events were pretty grim as established writers leaned heavily on the word Luck. I kept reminding myself that luck may not grace me and that I should keep my focus on writing and publishing. When I felt confident about sending out my manuscript, the fifth publisher I sent it to Bilingual Press, housed at Arizona State University, accepted my novel for publication in 2009.

The years of waiting in the wings went by quickly and before I knew it, I had dozens of poems and stories published. I wasn’t afraid to read my work at open mics and events sponsored by the journals that published my work. I treasured every opportunity to read. However, nothing beat listening to other writers read their work. There were times when I was frustrated, when I thought my writing wasn’t worthy of attention, yet alone publication. Every week my mailbox was cluttered with rejection slips, letters, and rejection emails. I would reach low points in my writing career, only to be given small glimpses of validation and the will to succeed. When I started to lose hope of success, I received small miracles of acceptance. Sometimes the miracles came after a reading, when an audience member would take me aside and ask for my book. Sometimes the miracles were simply acceptance letters. And sometimes, those acceptance letters came with a check or cash for my writing. I might admit that luck played a role in my being the first person in my PEN EV Fellowship cohort to publish a book.

Subsequently, did luck play a role in my winning a scholarship to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Week in 2008? Did luck play a role when I won the 2009 Kulupi Press’ Sense of Place competition? Did luck play a role when Bilingual Press accepted my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, for publication? Did luck play a role when I held an author copy of my book in my hands?

Most likely, luck played a small role. However, so did hard work. I wrote poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. I rewrote my novel while working on unrelated short stories, poetry, and news articles and columns. I took writing classes, attending workshops, talks, and read novels, read books about reading and writing, read newspapers and journals, read. I told anyone who would listen about my writing, about my novel, about my poetry. I started maintaining a website and blog in January 2006 after my first poem was published. I told myself I wasn’t going to write about the trials of not getting published. I was going to celebrate the opportunities I received as a writer who hadn’t yet published a book. I've also had the privilege of sharing my journey with La Bloga. Although I didn’t know the name for it, I was building my platform by taking myself seriously as a writer and by working on my craft.

In the news this week, I have a mention in Poets & Writers, the Santa Barbara Independent, and a feature story by Leslie Dinaberg in Noozhawk. Yesterday, I was interviewed by Kim McMillon on her radio show, Arts in the Valley 1480 AM KYOS and you can listen with me on Saturday, August 27th at 8pm.

Join me and say hello as I visit some cities on my old fashioned book tour. While I'm more than willing to try a virtual book tour, skype with book clubs, and encourage friends to 'like' and review my book on Amazon, I'm hitting the road and hope you will stop by and hear me read a few pages of Ocotillo Dreams.

Ocotillo Dreams Fall 2011 Tour Dates

more info


August 12, Tattered Cover, Denver, CO 7pm

August 20, Tecolote Book Shop, Montecito, CA 4pm

August 31, Changing Hands Books, Tempe, AZ, 7pm


September 17, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, Sylmar, CA, 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm

September 17, Autry National Center, Burbank, CA, 3:30-5:00 pm

September 27, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, 7pm.


October 1, LAPCA Author Event at Olvera Street, Los Angeles, 11: 00 am to 5 pm

October 2, 10th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair, Fresh Fair New Fiction Panel 10:30-11:30 am

October 6, 26th Annual National Hispanic Women’s Conference, Phoenix, AZ, 2pm

October 7, Mesilla Centro Cultural, New Mexico, 7pm

October 8, Alamosa Books, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2-3 pm

October 13, Octavia Books, New Orleans, 6 pm

October 15, Garden District Book Shop, New Orleans, 1pm

October 23, The Maple Leaf Bar, New Orleans, 3pm


November 10, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, 7 pm


Francisco Aragón said...

Thanks for sharing this journey. And congratulations on your book launch!

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Melinda, I am so proud of you. I also thank you for sharing your manuscript with me. It's a wonderful, powerful book that is quite timely. I hope all of La Bloga's readers will buy it!

Anonymous said...

I don't know about luck, but good work has its rewards and all in good time. We all believed in your talent, but you had to believe in you!! Congrats!!!!!

Kathleen Alcala said...

Thank you for having such a positive attitude. Someone recently used a quote (my brain is fried from intensive teaching, sorry) that said 90% of luck is showing up. It sounds as though you showed up and brought your skills and hard work with you. Welcome!

Corina Chaudhry said...

Congrats! It's all about hard work and persistence and looking at the glass as half full. Looking forward to your reading in September. Corina Chaudhry

Corina Chaudhry said...

Congratulations with your book. See what hardwork and persistence does. Can't wait to read my copy.