“You Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, et al
While watching my daughter’s basketball game last week, I noticed that many of the players seemed reluctant to shoot. They preferred finding an open teammate to pass to, especially if someone was defending them. From the sidelines, it looked like they missed so many chances to score because they simply didn’t put the ball up.
Successful people in sports, business and beyond know that trying and failing is part of the process. Each attempt carries some level of risk and cost, but if you’re not willing to risk and lose, you won’t risk and win. I’ve always been willing to go the extra mile to get something done, especially if it’s important to me. This weekend I went an extra 300 miles.
Part “this sounds like an adventure,” and part “I am probably crazy,” I drove from Miami to Key West and back in a day just to meet Judy Blume and get an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of The Beautiful List into her tiny but oh-so-talented hands.
On this publishing journey, I’ve learned that endorsements from other authors or experts in your space can help you. But I have no connections to middle grade fiction authors. Not one. Thus, in brainstorming who might be great authors to approach, Ms. Blume was at the top of my list, mainly because she wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. In searching for other books like mine, I found none others that wove a coming-of-age story with a backdrop of faith that so authentically captured the uneasiness of puberty for girls.
Many authors who are highly successful do not include a way to reach them on their websites. But Ms. Blume, amazingly, provides an email address. She also works part-time at the non-profit Books & Books store in Key West that she helped found. Armed with an email response from her assistant that encouraged me to stop by the bookstore, as well as my willing mother-in-law who provided company and wheels for the drive, I journeyed down US-1 and back to get to Ms. Blume.
When she approached me in the store, I told her I was humbled and honored to meet her, and she actually bowed. This petite woman was all grace as I fumbled all over my words, trying to explain what it meant to meet her, how some of her books helped me escape as a child, and how I was now boldly and brazenly asking her to read my ARC. She kindly took my envelope and then signed a copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for my daughter. (Pinch me!)
I have no idea what Ms. Blume will do with my manuscript. For all I know, she might use the pages for kindling. But I simply had to take the shot and risk that something amazing will come from the encounter. I already gained getting to meet a legend and to share with her how her career has inspired me. I gained spending a day with my mother-in-law gazing at the turquoise waters of the Keys. It was time well spent even if this ends up being an airball. But the potential reward of having Judy Blume like my manuscript? That is a priceless shot I had to take.