More than 90 students at Thompson Middle School in Murrieta recently learned first-hand the single trait writers must have to succeed in the book publishing business: persistence.
When asked by Murrieta author Helen M. Ryan what they thought was the ‘one thing’ book writers need to possess, most answered “creativity,” “ideas,” or “writing abilities.”
Though she agreed their answers were all great and valid, Ryan outlined for the fascinated students that without persistence, some great classic books might have never seen the light of day.
“Anyone heard of Theodor Geisel? Well, Mr. Geisel is Dr. Seuss,” Ryan told the eighth graders, who clapped in acknowledgement of the much-loved children’s book author. “Dr. Seuss was rejected 27—27!— times before his first book was accepted by a publisher.” What? “Can you imagine…” Ryan asked the stunned students, “what would have happened if he would have given up on the 26th try? There would be no ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ No ‘Cat in the Hat.’ And no ‘The Lorax.’”
Inspiring young people, and showing them that anything is possible, was the mission of the day’s presentations.
“I had so much self-doubt growing up,” Ryan said. “I didn’t believe in myself or my abilities. It took me until I reached the age of 46 to finally realize that I was good enough to write a book.”
Sharing her story with the young writers, Ryan talked about starting her first book at age 9, then writing for the school newspaper as a journalism major in college, before finally giving up on her writing career to pursue graphic design and focus on raising her children.
“It’s hard for people to grasp that they can follow their dreams. It seems like we are just programmed on some level to think we can’t do it,” she said. “My goal is to help show people that their dreams truly are within their reach.”
Ryan’s book, "21 Days to Change Your Body (and Your Life)," was published in May 2012.
“Like many before me, I started and stopped. Started and stopped,” she said.
Determined to share her story of losing more than 80 pounds and changing her life, Ryan picked up her unfinished manuscript again last year, finally completing it.
“There’s something magical about seeing something you’ve worked so hard on come to life,” notes Ryan. “And something more than magical when people tell you that your words have changed their lives.”
Ryan, who lives in Murrieta with her two teenage children, jumped at the chance to speak to the middle school students about what it takes to write and publish a book, whether through self-publishing, traditional publishing channels or audio and digital publishing.
“Our youth are open to ideas and possibilities,” says Ryan with a smile. “If I can just inspire one person to keep going—one person to not give up their dream of writing—who knows? There may be another J.K. Rowling (rejected 12 times) or Stephen King (also rejected a dozen times) among them.”