Submissions: Cat in a Kayak

To be a writer and/or illustrator means you have to develop a thick skin. Sort of the thickness of a wet suit. You also have to be loose in the hips, and ready to brace yourself at any given moment. 

Just like kayaking. That's me in my Current Designs caribou kayak. I've had peaceful paddles and I've had scary ones, but so far I haven't capsized. (at least accidentally- I've capsized on purpose to practice wet exits and entries.) The beauty of kayaking is that if you are prepared and smart, you can experience the beauty and exhilaration of life on the edge of the world of water. You can go places you can't go in a motor boat or a sailboat. You become one with the surface, drafting only mere inches. Seals and otters check you out. Fish jump next to you. Eagles cast shadows on your deck. 

...and you can land on tiny islands and explore the nooks and crannies of low tide wonders, and the far away corners of your imagination.

But in order to get there, you may have some mighty nervous moments. Winds can pick up and change directions. Giant tankers, or tug boats and barges the size of a mall can churn past, welling up a wake that would be good surf in Hawaii. There are tide rips that sound like waterfalls- and they are- just under the surface. There can be tricky eddy lines, boils, even whirlpools. Deception Pass has all of this and more. Just go stand on the bridge and watch that water moving. Sea lions play in it. Humans have drowned.

The concept here is that if you do your homework, and if you paddle wisely, you will arrive at your destination, perhaps a bit tense, but happier for having had the experience. 

This is exactly how I feel about submitting books to agents and publishers. (you knew there was an analogy somewhere here, didn't you?) I feel like a cat in a kayak when I send out my work to my agent and even more so when she sends my work out to publishers. 

Like kayaking, I have prepared. I've tried my best to pick the best route, to read the charts, to listen to the weather... and then you just have to shove off. I'm a bunch of jangling nerves trying to stay loose and trying not to guess what the outcome will be... but I'm sure you have felt this way: there are two little spirits that ride on my shoulders, whispering in my ears. The bad spirit says, "what if nobody wants it?" (doom and gloom and you go down with your little boat) and the good spirit says, "what will you wear on Oprah?" (not the wet suit, although it may come in handy)

Submitting your work is a yin and yang experience. Good and bad. Joyful and painful. It is a journey, not a destination, and you have to learn to enjoy the journey.

So what do you do while you are treading water wondering if anyone will read your work, let alone like it? How do you stay grounded? I don't have the ultimate answers here- but I know what works for me: 

Exercise- whether it is walking or something more vigorous- will quell and calm those nerves.

Reading- escape into the work of others- others who have successfully navigated those waters.

Writing/Illustrating/Journaling- get back on that horse, or in that kayak and start the next journey.

You can, of course, sip cocktails with your significant other and watch the sunset- and realize that life is good because you are here and able to say that you did the work, you deserve a rest, and you can congratulate yourself just for getting that far.

That said, my YA novel, "Jacked" is going out to publishers today. I'm going to put on my wet suit and start paddling, but I've packed my journal and my camera, and some lovely wine. I hope I'll land somewhere safe and sound in a few weeks or so.

How do you deal with submissions? I'd love some good stories to keep me company as I try to stay afloat...

With Love,


  1. I'm sending good vibes, Nina. I know someone has been waiting for just this book.

  2. Just your blogging keeps me reading...I know I will love your next book. Congrat's on its completion, and enjoy your next voyage--on & off the water. Cheers.

  3. Congratulations, Nina, on completing and sending out your novel! This is very, very exciting. But I can understand why it'd be nerve-wracking too. Looking forward to hearing your next bit of news about the publisher that decides to buy it!

  4. Your blog posts on submissions and rejections are some of my favorites. No matter how much I love writing and illustrating I can't seem to find a way to feel comfortable in the submissions process. I hate submissions. The image of a cat in a kayak is a fun one and appropriate one; makes me laugh at the shakiness of the whole process but recognize that probably everything will be okay one way or the other anyway. Thanks for sharing these sorts of posts, Nina.


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