Guest Post: Author Sonia Taitz’s Long, Winding, And Inspiring Road To Publication

DOWN UNDERIt’s December! Are you slowing down or gearing up? Are you taking inventory of what you’ve accomplished this year or what you’ve neglected? I’d say that amidst the cookies and presents, it’s time to (at the very least) remember that there are many ways to meet (or exceed) writing goals. Sometimes one good, solid paragraph is a major accomplishment. Sometimes it’s a word count. Sometimes it’s simply untangling a plot knot in your head. No matter what, it’s always good to get a little inspiration—and that’s what I offer you today with the introduction of author Sonia Taitz, and her interesting road to the publication of her three novels. 

Sonia is honest and funny—key components of author sanity in my opinion.

Please welcome Sonia to Women’s Fiction Writers! 

Amy xo

When the Going Gets Ridiculous, the Writing Gets Sublime

by Sonia Taitz

DOWN UNDERI’m here to send a word of cheer to my valiant fellow writers. In fact, I may be the literary embodiment of the phrase, “where there’s life, there’s hope.”

I started out young. My first novel, IN THE KING’S ARMS, was written in my 20s – a decade so far away as to now seem mythical. Unless you’re actually in your 20s, in which case you’re probably deeply upset about something, this decade seems like a fairy tale where anything is possible. Every phone call (in my 20s, there were phone calls) and letter (and there were letters) could bring the news that would change the world. Forever. So there I was, shopping a novel, ready for that phone call or that letter.

IN THE KING’S ARMS was, like most first novels, entirely based on my own story. But it was a pretty good story, with a romance at its heart. A child of Holocaust survivors (me, disguised as a girl with different coloring) gets into Oxford University. And although her war-traumatized parents fear her going away, not to mention exceeding them by miles in education, what they dread most is the chance that she’ll fall for a non-Jew. Guess what she does (guess what I did)? In my book, I make the young man an aristocrat from a haughtily anti-Semitic family. On top of which, he wants to be an actor – hardly a Jewish mother’s dreamboat. He’s not even taking pre-med (or optometry) on the side, just in case. No, he’s a rogue, a dropout; he’s not even an Oxford student but the raffish brother of one. And he wants to be a theatre actor, a traveler, part of a troupe. Does this Romeo and Juliet pair end up together? You’d have to read the book to find out. And I’d have to be published for you to read the book. A goal that remained in the air for a while, as you’ll see.

Throughout my 20s, and into my 30s, I discovered that getting published is as fraught with drama as (but far less sexy than) star-crossed love. I even managed to get an agent, a good one – who dropped me after trying three or four publishers. After much struggle, I got another, less prestigious but more persistent agent. This one found me a wonderful independent press. A senior editor at the publishing house, an elegant man in his 60s, announced that I  — and my fledgling book –were about to become “a literary event.” A promised cover review in The Washington Post was one detail I recall. I began musing about how many pairs of shades I’d need as I rode the limo from bookstore to bookstore for signings. Then the deal fell through – the publisher told my editor that he’d already acquired a similar book. Goodbye, second agent.

Cut to 25 years later. Let’s call it a quarter century — that sounds even longer and more portentous. At this point, I have actually published a book about mothering, acquired and disappointed a few more agents, and have completed a memoir, THE WATCHMAKER’S DAUGHTER, about growing up as the child of immigrant concentration camp survivors. After one year of dogged searching, I land a big agent. This lady is the best of the best. Her clients are household names, and those that aren’t have the consolation of Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards. I remember toasting my luck with a friend. Never toast to the mere fact of getting an agent. Though this luminary loved my memoir, in the end she failed to close a deal. Two promising houses fell through, after taking me agonizingly close to literary consummation. Then this agent, too, sent me on my not-so-merry way.  I went away more slowly than I used to. I was older, after all. A manatee streaked with scars, as it were, drifting into the open seas.

At this point, I began looking at small publishers, academic publishers, anyone with a printing press (or a stamp pad).  I finally found a tiny publisher, an infinitesimal but good house, run by a husband and wife, who fell in love with THE WATCHMAKER’S DAUGHTER. I meekly asked if they would begin our collaboration with the publication of my novel, that 25-year old bearer of broken dreams, which had fictionalized the memoir story. I had to ask. IN THE KING’S ARMS was my forlorn child. It lived in a dark drawer, but I’d never forgotten it. The editors miraculously fell in love with the novel as well. Without changing a word, it went to press – and came into the world in 2011. Not only did this once discarded manuscript make it to print — it made it into New York Times print; the fiction editors gave it a wonderful review.

A year later, THE WATCHMAKER’S DAUGHTER emerged from the same tiny press, garnering praise from Vanity Fair, People, The Reader’s Digest, NPR and more. Both books, fiction and non, were nominated for prizes (the memoir won a medal from ForeWord, that champion of indie presses). Finally, I felt I had arrived.

Two years later, I am typing on my laptop, addressing my colleagues, my friends, my buddies in the trenches and the margins. I mean you. My new book, DOWN UNDER, was published a few weeks ago, and I hope you’ll read it. It’s not about the Holocaust, but it does have that star-crossed lovers theme. You’d know it was the same author. This time, however, my subconscious carried me along to stranger climes. The story is inspired by famous movie star who went a little crazy and started cursing out Jews, women, and gays. I used to love this guy, so I’ve taken that downturn personally (not to mention the fact that he filmed two movies on my block). The title – DOWN UNDER– gives you a clue as to who it is. OK, he’s Australian, but not Hugh Jackman. His initials are MG. Did you know that MG was born and bred in America? That fact formed the kernel of my tale. The character based on him, a black sheep Irish-American boy, falls into deep teen love with a prim Jewish girl who breaks his heart. Years later, his star in decline, he journeys back to the U.S. to rekindle the flame and/or settle the score.

My little press, sadly, is closing this year. DOWN UNDER will be our last book together. But because of this platform, I’ve had the confidence to go on and look for yet another agent for my next novel. After four years flying solo, I’ve now found one, and she loves the new manuscript I’m polishing for submission. This one (GREAT WITH CHILD) is about an ambitious law associate who gets pregnant by accident. No Holocaust AND no Romeo and Juliet.  But sex and love, per usual (including motherhood)? Check.

There’s no telling what will happen in the future. Bigger publication? A little fame flare-up? Disappointment? Some familiar mixture of all of the above? I can’t control the world. I can’t see the path ahead to make sure it’s free of pebbles and sinkholes. Nor can I control agents, publishers, reviewers, or the literary marketplace. There is just one little thing I can control.  It’s actually a huge thing.

I can keep on writing no matter what.  And I hope you’ll do the same.

Color Photo Sonia Taitz H&H photoSonia Taitz is the author of DOWN UNDER, recently published by McWitty Press. Her website is http://www.soniataitz.com.

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26 thoughts on “Guest Post: Author Sonia Taitz’s Long, Winding, And Inspiring Road To Publication

  1. Holy cow, Sonia! What an inspiring story! I love it–especially because it speaks to so many writers, including me. It took me 25 years to publish my first novel, and I went through many of the same ups and downs you did. I think we’re living proof that the journey’s the thing. The only bit I disagree with here is that you should never celebrate landing an agent–I think we should celebrate every single thing we accomplish, from finishing that first draft to seeing our book in stores, because each hurdle really does bring us closer to our dream: sharing our stories with readers. Thanks for a wonderful, very honest tale of persistence and passion for writing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Holly, you’re a kindred spirit with a very similar story. And I kind of do agree with you — we should celebrate getting an agent, even if it fizzles, because it is a coup, a marker on the road. Thanks so much for your kind comments (which I will celebrate)!! All best, Sonia

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  2. Sonia, this is one of the most inspiring pieces I’ve read in a long time. I’m so glad authors are starting to talk about our journeys through this changing era. Yours is a good one. All the best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many thanks for this informative, inspiring post! As a writer working on a first novel and still hoping it will be possible to obtain good agent representation, I appreciate the grounding in reality Sonia Taitz’s words provide, combined with encouragement to keep believing in oneself, be patient and not give up.

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  4. Wonderful story, Sonia. I have a book like that which I am currently pitching. And I am reworking my second novel, but I guess we never give up on that first one that ignited our dreams. So happy for you and thanks for your post. Beth

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  5. Sonia, thanks so much for these very encouraging words. Your writing journey is similar to mine. Finally, after many years of never giving up (in hope/faith) I’ve gotten my foot in the door with 2 anthologies out this month. It’s a beginning!

    Your story is so uplifting that I’ll be tweeting it. May you continue to be blessed with many more published books.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this article, especially since I enjoy when the story flows gently along. The connecting words floating down the babbling brook to the next topic. I have read your first two books and admire how you effortlessly string together words, in an instance and in such a way, bringing a smile to my face. Sometimes there will be laughter or tears of admiration for having heard someone with such an amazing skill, the voice of a Wordsmith.

    In life, you have been quoted with many a catch phrase, but what caught me, hook, line, and sinker with your work, are the wicked taunts, subtle insults, and hilarious inner thoughts in your storytelling. What makes little sense to the characters is fully understandable to your closest confidant, your readers.

    Thank you for sharing.
    W.
    (woman and writer of invisible words)

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  7. What a hugely inspirational post, Sonia. I love the positive message that all we can do is continue to write, write, write and see where the chips may fall. I’ve been in that ‘gotten close’ boat myself. So all I can do is keep on moving forward and improving. I’ve added your books to my TBR on Goodreads!

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