In retrospect, like the best-laid plans, it all worked out great. This past spring I released my novel, Missing Tyler, twenty years after I began the first draft. To the world my launch appeared nuanced and executed with amazing precision. But what I know now, being in the driver’s seat, is that the years building up to the release are what enabled my novel to receive such a tremendous reception. The novel and I grew up together.
I take comfort in the knowledge that the years my novel went unpublished was not wasted time. I often scolded myself for not doing more at various times and society further reinforces that notion for all unpublished authors. But not only was that period not wasted time, it was perfect and necessary. Now that I’ve launched my novel into the world, I can honestly say it was released at just the right time.
I began writing Missing Tyler in the mid-nineties in a writing group in Lafayette, Colorado. At the time I was Tamara Wachtel. I was a few years out of college, bursting with creative energy to finally see a story all the way through to the end – to write a damn novel. Prior to that point, the most I’d written was a fifty-page screenplay as a senior thesis in college. I had various novel starts, all around the same page count. One of my favorites of the unfinished novels featured a main character who mainlined caffeine the way others shoot heroin.
As I matured past my early twenties and moved into a house with my fiancé, it was time to tackle a novel. To completion. One story was screaming for attention over the others. It wanted to be told. Those early drafts of Missing Tyler still exist somewhere on a floppy disk in a box buried in the house I now call home.
As I grew, Missing Tyler grew with me. I matured from girlfriend to fiancée to wife, becoming Tamara Palmer. Then I became a mother. I grew in my day job, carving out a career path from recruiter to manager to director to career coach.
It’s tempting to regret life achievements not having happened sooner but twinges of regret are tempered with understanding that if I had had my daughter when I was younger, my second novel, Finding Lancelot, would never have been written. The freedom I felt to attend a ten-day creative writing retreat in England in the early 2000s likely won’t return for many years to come. And when it does, I’ll be a different woman, post-menopausal, with a lifetime of history to fuel a different story.
According to my original plan, I was supposed to have sold Missing Tyler in 2008. At that time, I had secured a reputable New York agent who was shopping the book around. It was a terrible market though, and while there was some interest, no one was willing to take a stab at a newbie writer tackling death and grief. After my agent accumulated a substantial pile of rejection letters from all the big publishers, she told me she was out of ideas. Being seven months pregnant, I countered that I was out of time. With a baby on the way, I didn’t have time to continue exploring a creative venture.
Besides being immersed in new motherhood, the next group of years found me entrenched in learning the ropes of running a business. I gained exceptional knowledge in marketing and, more importantly, social media marketing. These have been my secret weapons in getting Missing Tyler launched into bestseller status on Amazon and, I hope, will be my ticket to getting Missing Tyler known beyond the confines of my communities.
The years I spent raising my daughter coincided with the burgeoning acceptability of self-publishing. I couldn’t have published Missing Tyler on my own in 2008 and achieved anywhere near the reception I have today. The backbone of social media has been the key to marketing my novel and social media has grown up a lot since my daughter was born.
And while I crave the legitimacy of inclusion in the writing club that a check from Random House confers, with self-publishing I was able to design my book cover exactly as I wanted. I didn’t have to modify my ending or change my title or make myriad other creative adjustments that the establishment likely would have insisted upon. Retaining complete creative control reminds me that this is truly my accomplishment. Even if one day Random House comes calling and offers a check in exchange for my book, I’ll know the offer is rooted in wanting a piece of what the world already loves and that I created on my own.
Also, had I published in 2008, I would not have had the last five years of public-speaking practice, during which I have honed my voice and have come to understand what it is to command a crowd and truly engage an audience. I’ve loved the book signings I’ve had thus far, feeling comfortable speaking to an audience about my journey and the importance of creativity in my life. I am a captivating speaker because I’ve learned what people respond to in my delivery. I look forward to every new speaking event.
And, had I published in 2008, I would not have had the years of maturing that allowed me to fine tune the manuscript. I would not have been able to read my novel through the lens of a mother. I would not have met my critique partner, David, who edited Missing Tyler through the eyes of a father.
They say everything happens in its time. Some say it’s God’s will, some say it’s just the roll of the dice. Whether it was fate, God, or a fluke, I’m grateful that I sit here at 45 reflecting back on a lifetime (to date) of experiences that brought me to this doorway. I crossed the publishing threshold armed with good writing chops, social media savvy, public-speaking ease and comfort, and a twenty-five-year working history of strong connections. Into the proverbial Crockpot they went to bring my novel into the world with force.
About the Author: Tamara Palmer
Tamara Palmer knew she was going to be a writer before she could even write. She would play elaborate dramas out with her Barbies for days, even weeks, on end. As she got older, the stories made their way onto a typewriter. Tamara obtained a BA in English/Creative Writing from Eastern Illinois University, and has had a handful of short stories and essays published online and in print.
Tamara blogs frequently for the career advisement business she founded in 2012, greyzone. “Missing Tyler” is her first novel. She lives just outside Chicago with her husband, daughter, and assortment of pets.