One foot in front of the other, keep on going, no matter what happens, keep on going.

We’ve all heard of the value of perseverance. Goodness knows I’ve already blogged about the subject enough!

But somehow I keep remembering the story of this guy whose name was Richard Kennedy.

He is a storyteller and he wrote a book that I’d never heard of called Come Again in the Spring.

I don’t usually like stories in which Death plays a character, but there was something about this tale that was really moving.

And I only heard it second hand.

I was at a storytelling workshop, and we were relating some of our favourite stories to each other, and one lady, I recall she was a former librarian, she told this story, and she told it so well that it really touched me. And the funny thing was that the librarian who was telling it had such a hard time because she was trying to recount it word for word–which is actually a no-no when it comes to storytelling. But she had loved Richard Kennedy’s language so much that she couldn’t bear to use her own words.

I thought, “Wow!” That is a good story! It’s the kind of story that should be famous, but it wasn’t and it isn’t. I asked her about it later and she said that the storyteller who’d written it had been disappointed in the fact that it hadn’t received public attention. It had been published and then faded quite quickly out of sight from a fickle and distracted public. Storytellers know of it, but most other people don’t.

Anyways, eventually Richard Kennedy gave up.

I don’t know if Richard Kennedy even tells stories any more.

When I searched the name Kennedy this other storyteller came up. I had to google the rough title I remembered to actually find out his actual name.

I’ve read a LOT of how to books on writing for children. One of the best was written by Phyllis A. Whitney. You might not know her name but I remember her work growing up. She was a specialist in writing mysteries. She started by writing children’s mysteries and then eventually wrote adult mysteries. I still have two copies of her books on my shelf. They’re not very good. They’re two of her lesser known books, but I picked them up somewhere and I can’t bear to part with them.

I credit Whitney with helping me to become a reader. I read nothing but mysteries in my early years–I cut my teeth on them! And although many of the establishment tend to look down their noses at mystery writers, I have nothing but admiration for them. And I loved Phyllis A. Whitney’s books! She took me to places I never dreamed that I’d one day visit! One of her books was set in South Africa and when I finally did go there in 2004, she was uppermost in my mind!

She wrote hundreds of books. Unfortunately she died in 2008 at the age of 104.

Her writing probably wasn’t as good as Richard Kennedy’s, but boy did she never give up!

In her book on writing for children she said she was sitting at an Edgar award ceremony, in the front row, when one lady who was attending the event turned to her (not knowing that she was there for the award) and said something like, “But you know, they never do tell you how to become a famous author, now do they?”

And right then Phyllis A. Whitney decided to tackle it in her acceptance speech. She got up there in front of everyone and referred to the lady’s question and said, “I’m going to tell you how to be an author. You have to WANT it enough! That’s it.”

And she went on to explain that if you wanted it enough, then you did the research, you put in the time, you put in the effort, you dug down deep inside you, past all the pain and the rejection and you pulled out the best story you can make.

And now I have a confession to make.

At the SCBWI convention, when I was getting ready to give my acceptance speech, that’s precisely what I thought of when I was composing it in my mind. I wanted to give all those people in the audience an honest answer to the question, “How did you do it?” Because quite frankly, all those years that I’d been in the audience, that’s precisely what I wanted to know! And very few authors actually answer that question fully.

I would say that unfortunately Richard Kennedy didn’t want it enough.

It’s so sad!

Breaks my heart.

He was obviously such a huge talent! And the pain of rejection and the pain of being overlooked meant he stopped trying.

That’s the thing isn’t it?

There are so many stories out there, we are bound to overlook very good stories.

There are no guarrantees that your very best work will be noticed.

You can’t let it break your heart.

Sometimes when I’m listening to a hit song I’m thinking in the back of my mind, okay this singer is getting the ‘push’.

They’ve got the marketing executives and the music executives and grammy committees and the radio stations all backing this artist, but there must be other artists out there who don’t get the ‘push’, who struggle away in the dark with little to show for it, but who probably produce better art.

They just haven’t been ‘noticed’.

And thinking that of course makes me wonder if I’m in that group.

All I know is that I feel like I wrote my heart out and now I’m back at square one.

I’ve got to do it all over again and completely differently.

In the last two years I’ve written two full length novels that haven’t been published. That would be enough to make some people start feeling desperate.

I won’t deny it’s not stressful, but at the same time, I’m feeling pretty sanguine about things.

I feel like the creative gears are turning, and this fallow bit is necessary.

I may be getting ready to crank it up to the next level, we’ll see.

Right now I’m just getting up doggedly and writing my two pages, every day, two pages. I’m up to over a hundred and seventy pages of the Hajj novel and whether or not anyone else in the world likes it, I like it!

I really don’t want to be a Richard Kennedy.

I’ve seen too many people with exceptional talent go by the wayside because they didn’t WANT it enough to stick it out, to have real perseverance.