The Sunday before Christmas, I finished my second book, a YA contemporary called IF I LIE. I sent it off to my agent and held my breath, waiting for her to tell me it sucked. Not because my agent is a jerk (she’s actually AMAZING), but because my confidence had been swirling the drain for a while.

See, getting an agent and then going on submission is tough. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever voluntarily faced, and I like a good challenge. Most writers become well acquainted with rejection in all its various forms, from “no” to “oh, hell, no!” There were days when I brushed off the no’s and vowed to keep at it. But then there were days when I cried and thought I was stupid for even trying. My family and friends would ask if I’d sold a book yet, and I’d launch into this diatribe about how maybe 1% of writers actually get published. And they would pat me on the back, and I’d act all fierce because I was still in the game, still writing and learning and sweating and bleeding on the page.

But secretly, I wondered, who did I think I was to even reach for that 1% with my grubby hands? There’s nothing terribly special about me. If you asked me to describe myself, my first words would be “I’m a hard worker.” Yay. Let’s all high five on that one. I’m not the sparkling type that lights up a room. I’m not passionate about anything. I don’t spend my weekends fighting for causes. When you get down to it, what could I possibly have to say that matters to anyone?

Do you want to slap me yet? Because I did. Seriously. What a huge, steaming load of crap all that is.

That garbage – all those nasty thoughts – are what a series of no’s can do to you if you’re not careful. Those are all lies you begin to tell yourself when you take every rejection of your work as a rejection of YOU. Okay, maybe I don’t light up a room, but I laugh a lot and I’m a phenomenal listener. I’m passionate about lots of things, including writing and family and friends.

And I have so much that is interesting to say. My experience is unique and colorful and MINE. Did you know I was once in a body cast? Or that my parents’ have nine marriages and eight divorces between them? Or that I used to play daredevil and jump off my roof – for fun? And I have a scar on my elbow from that time I got run over by a car? And what about that sister that I’ve never met?

Every time I sit down to write, I channel all that experience into my work. I take all that emotion, and I dig into it, so I can put it on paper like a mirror for others to look into and recognize themselves. I am so freaking lucky to have an ability that can move people. What a humbling, overwhelming thing.

If you have a gift and you love it and you’re passionate about it, don’t give into the no’s. You have to keep growing and learning and writing. Do what it takes to get better. School, workshops, beta reading, taking criticism and turning it into gold.

Because if you finally get the call that you have an offer – or two (holy freak out) – those no’s are going to become the rocks you had to climb to get where you are. And getting to the top of the mountain will mean all the more. And you will cry when your agent tells you the news. Then you will cry and laugh when you tell your sister and your mom and those people who believed in you. And if you are like me, you will lock yourself in your bathroom and sob when it hits you that the dream you’ve been slaving over is coming true in a very real way.

Trust me on this.

It pays to be a hard worker.

My super awesome, life-changing news…

My YA contemp IF I LIE will be published in Fall 2012 by the Simon Pulse imprint at Simon & Schuster!