Recently, some new friends that I’ve met through work, speaking engagements, and even this blog have asked me about my journey to becoming an author. So, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the rocky but exhilarating road I’ve traveled to see a book with my name on the cover distributed all across the country.
Slay Like a Mother hit shelves on March 19, 2019; however, it took me five years (though it feels more like a lifetime) to strong-arm this crazy dream into reality. And despite literary agents ignoring me, publishers rejecting my work, and blank pages making me shake in my sleep, I found myself irrationally energized to keep going.
Each time I felt defeated, I put that disappointment into a blender and transformed it into motivation. It’s a skillset I developed and honed over time—not because I’m superhuman, but because I don’t like to lose.
It hurts my fragile ego.
Throughout this process, I believed in my soul that I had a message to share with mothers that would help turn their self-doubt into strength. This meant I would stop at nothing to get it out into the world. Not to shine a spotlight on myself, but to transfer healing to others.
So here are five defining moments from my inspired publishing journey. I hope this answers your questions about how I became an author and encourages you to take on a fulfilling, aspirational goal too.
1. I CONVINCED MYSELF I COULD DO IT.
From 2011 – 2013, I began flirting with the idea of writing a book. I was running The Mom Complex and regularly conducted research with mothers, but I wasn’t sure I could get published. Writing sounded hard, I didn’t see myself as a writer, and I didn’t think I was smart enough to do it. I can barely spell, for God’s sake.
However, the tides turned in May of 2013, after I made the decision to leave my advertising career, become an entrepreneur, and take The Mom Complex out on my own. The belief that I could be a business owner—something I was also terrified of trying—gave me the confidence to figure out how to write a book.
A few months later, on a Tuesday afternoon while on board a flight from Richmond to Atlanta, I typed out a cover page to my first proposal. I used my fear and hesitation as momentum.
That day, I only squeezed out three pages of writing, but it didn’t matter. I finally believed I could write a book. It was a start and that was enough.
2. I DEALT WITH REJECTION.
It took me over a year to write a book proposal that combined my research on the self-defeating tendencies of mothers with my personal experience of feeling less-than-good-enough for the majority of my life.
The pressure was on, because non-fiction titles sell to publishers on 50+ page proposals, not the full manuscript. In other words, the proposal is everything.
It was hard but exciting work. What was even harder, however, was landing a literary agent—a necessity for selling a book proposal to a major publisher. After getting rejected, dismissed, or ignored by every agent I contacted, I eventually landed one in LA who was a friend of a friend.
His endorsement was a sign that someone in the industry also thought I could write a book. It was no longer my own blind ambition leading the charge.
Together, we were off to the races—and by races, I mean a fast sprint to lots of rejection. My agent shopped the proposal to 12 publishers and every single one of them said no. The proposal wasn’t unique enough in the mom space. They’d heard it all before.
More determined than ever, I spent the next six months absorbing feedback, re-working the proposal, and submitting an improved version to 11 new publishers. They all said no too. That’s right. Rejected 23 times.
Without being able to wow publishers in person, I had to allow the words in my proposal to stand on their own. I was growing concerned that my words weren’t good enough. That I wasn’t good enough.
I won’t lie and say I pulled myself out of a pity party alone, because I didn’t. I relied on my work team’s strength. They knew the power of this platform, the depths of my disappointment, and how to cheer me up.
Just look at the message they left in my NYC hotel room after a handful of rejections showed up the same day.
3. I WAS WILLING TO START OVER.
I took six months off from writing, worked hard at my day job at The Mom Complex, and chose to believe that the stars would align at the right time to help me find a new path to getting a new proposal into the right hands.
Eventually, I got the break I needed when my friend Kate introduced me to Kristina—a badass mom, editor, and author in NYC who helped me land an A-list agent and had a brilliant track record for taking book proposals to the next level.
New agent. New editor. New day. Let’s do this.
But my new path was quickly filled with doubt and fear when during a first meeting, my new agent suggested that my first book be an anthology: a collection of essays from other moms. In other words, he wanted me to use the words of other women instead of my own.
I immediately started sweating. Not sure about what to do next, I excused myself to the bathroom, splashed water on my face (and under my arms), took five deep breaths, and returned to his office to stand my ground.
In the middle of a conference room overlooking Manhattan, I told him I had a powerful message to share, much of which was personal, and I was confident I could turn around an outline that would prove to him that I was worthy of writing my own book.
That last part was a lie. After the meeting, I boarded a train back to Richmond and cried the whole way home.
I was terrified that I couldn’t deliver on my promise, so I called friends for reinforcement. Earl, my former boss, reminded me that I’d overcome greater challenges in the past and Lauren, my business partner, pointed out the positive response I’d recently received about my blog. She also reminded me to put on my sunglasses when crying in public.
4. I EMBRACED THE THEME THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING.
With my editor Kristina’s help, I created that one-page outline and held my breath as my agent reviewed it. “Please, God, no anthology,” I secretly begged.
My prayers were answered when my agent not only liked the new outline, but elevated its concept by suggesting its empowering dragon-slaying theme.
It was my agent’s idea to personify the self-doubt that lives inside millions of mothers as a fire-breathing dragon, a beast that inhales everything we do wrong, nothing we do right, and blows it back in our faces.
And this, my friends, is when the tears really rained down. I boarded a plane shortly after getting his text about slaying dragons and cried like I’ve never cried before, at 50,000 feet, all the way across the country.
Everything suddenly made sense. I knew how to write the book, who I would dedicate it to, and how heroic it would make women feel. It was time to take the struggles of women everywhere from quiet and embarrassing to brave and bold.
During the flight, I drafted the invitation below that now appears in the front of the book.
5. I SEALED THE DEAL.
With newfound wind in my sails, I spent the next six months putting together a stellar book proposal about slaying the self-sabotaging beast (of self-doubt) that lives inside mothers everywhere.
My agent shopped the new proposal and landed multiple offers. This put me in the unbelievably blessed position to choose the publisher I wanted to work with.
To everyone’s surprise, and against the advice of many, I went with the publisher who offered less money but more vision, love, and support for my platform. I left money on the table in favor of girl-power and chemistry.
Money is not a motivating force in my life. I’ve never believed that bigger is better. I’ve never believed that more money is better. This deal was no different.
Getting a deal with a top 10 publisher made my head spin. To be honest, some days it still doesn’t feel real.
But it is real. And it’s the result of fighting against the odds, never giving up, and running with any and every opportunity that came my way. I loved that it also wasn’t a solo mission, since an entire publishing house was poised to help change mothers’ lives too.
What I have to say is powerful; I know this to be true. I hear it from women all the time. But this message would never have had the opportunity to change the world if it stayed in a word document on my computer.
The actual process of writing the book (which only took seven months, compared to the four years it took to land a publisher) is a story for another day.
And also, of course, includes a lot of crying.