Success at Last

I bring you news of success, of dream achievement, of goal fulfillment. It’s not about me this time, but that’s okay. I will continue to plug away, old and feeble as I may be, until I either succeed (see below) or go face down on a keyboard, with my final words being psfdfkdadlfbldfbk. No, this week the fortune that comes from persistence and hard work was achieved by two people of my acquaintance: my friend John Gilstrap, and my younger daughter Annalisa.
Let me tell you about my friend first. John is a Kill Zone blogger emeritus, gone but hardly forgotten. John’s literary career over the course of ten extremely well written novels has waxed and waned, and is now very much waxing again, indeed. He had an itch to do just a bit more, however; and do it, he did. Yesterday John announced that for the first time a short story of his is being published in The Strand, the venerable mystery magazine which you should be reading issue to issue if you are not already. The name of the story is “In the After” and will be published in the Feb-May issue. Please join me in a tip of the hat and a toast of the beverage of your choice to John. It is John who on this very blog stated that “If failure is not an option, success is guaranteed.” Congratulations, John. We’re looking forward to reading that story.
Now we come to my daughter, who, by the way, quickly became sick of me quoting John’s truism to her when the going got rough. I think she feels differently now. Earlier this week, with less than an hour’s notice (lesson to be learned: check your e-mail hourly), Annalisa auditioned for a feature role in a production to be presented in a month or so by Shadowbox Live, the largest community theater in the United States. I asked her how she thought she did when she was finished.

 “I think it went fine,” she said. “I had to sing a song that I’d never heard before, but I thought I did okay.”

“Do you remember what the song was?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she said. Annalisa then proceeded to favor me with a flawless rendition of the first verse of “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” by the Four Tops. I rendered it less flawless by attempting to harmonize with her. It was never one of my favorite songs — I preferred the Stax/Volt sound to Motown — anyone who listened to mid-1960s radio has that tune firmly ensconced in their memory. And now Annalisa does, as well.  A day later, she got the good news: she won the part. She’s been walking on air since. It was her dream to at some point be in a professional theater production and now she is on her way. Not bad for a fifteen year old high school sophomore whose prior acting experience consists of two high school plays, a high school performance review, work as an extra in a stage production and pretending that she doesn’t know me when I do the helicopter thing around a potential suitor. She sure doesn’t get it from me. I can perform for film, but I can’t do live theater acting. I’m okay in front of a digital camera, where I can forget lines or direction, but in front of a live audience?! Nope. So congratulations to Annalisa. May this be the first professional performance of many.

So my question to you is: what would success be to you, right now? For me…it would be to have a novel published and then adapted for film, where, in turn, I would have at least a supporting role. You? Yes, you. Step right up and tell us. Please.

25 thoughts on “Success at Last

  1. Success for me right now? It’d be similar to your idea.
    First: to get enough money to become a full time writer and audiobook narrator with no need for a day job.

    Second: To sell one of my novels as a movie with the contractual requirement that I get to play a minor speaking part in the movie.

    Third: To win an Audie or an Earphones award for my narration.

    If I had any of those three things I’d count myself a major success.

    Otherwise I still count myself a minor success regardless, as my kids already love my work and think relatively highly of me, at least as far as teens think their own parents are cool.

    • Basil, this teenager at heart thinks you’re pretty cool too. If I sell my book and get my part, there’s a place for you in there too. Thanks!

    • Yours is a great one, Jim.

      Annalisa got the acting bug at a very early age, with imaginary play at three years of age. She’s never stopped. I hope she never does.

    • Thanks, Jordan. I felt the same way. She just marched right in there and performed in front of a bunch of adults. I would have been terrified.

      You have a great weekend as well!

  2. Congrats to John and to your daughter. That is very cool.

    Success for me would be completing one of the big plot ideas in my head (the kind with mind bending twists it takes a lot of work and effort to cook up) regardless of whether it is published or not.

    When I on rare occasion talk with someone about a plot idea I have, they look at me and say something to the effect of “Wow. That would be really hard to write/that’s a really difficult plot.” Well okay, but success to me will be pulling one of those off, and fighting past the “you can’t write a story like that” doubts that never fail to hound.

    BK Jackson

    • I have some of the same struggles you do, BK. It’s not that I can’t write the story, it’s that I worry over whether anyone really wants to read it. We’ll see. And good luck!

  3. Joe, congratulations to Annalisa, and thanks for your nod to me and my work. While I’m on it, thanks also (I think) to Michelle for recalling my glue boogers on her Thursday post.

    I’m still a Killzoner at heart, lurking here almost every day.

    Go San Francisco (actually, ABB–anybody but Baltimore)!

    Your faithful Washingtonian,

    John Gilstrap

  4. First and foremost *does the wave for Annalisa* You. Go. Girl.

    Second *checks out where I can get a copy of The Strand* Congrats to John G.

    As for myself, with the swirl of utter chaos I’ve been in for the last three years, I am hoping to hear the word “Yes” from two entities.

    The first “yes” from the mortgage company I have been courting. I have a little house picked out. 1100 sf 1950 bungalow with a 700 sf shop building for $40K. Major medical bills and divorce wiped out my credit 3 years ago and I am working with a non-profit for my mortgage. Since the bad thing happened, I’ve been sleeping on the sofa in my office.

    The second “yes” is from an agent I have been following and getting to know (my current WIP is based on a discussion I had with her in the bar at a writers’ con.) And if not from her, from another of her ilk and caliber.

    So, goals for 2013 are “yes” times two.


    • Terri, best wishes and good luck with all of those balls you have floating in the air. This is the land of second and third and fourth chances. Hope you get yours.

  5. Joe,
    Kudos to Annalisa and you tell her that for me. That’s fantastic! And I love her humility, “I think it went fine,” she said. “I had to sing a song that I’d never heard before, but I thought I did okay.” I can’t even imagine. My family cringes when I start singing while wearing my headphones. 🙂

    what would success be to you, right now? Okay, remember that you asked, Joe. 🙂 And JSB is going to laugh only because I’ve become a shameless self promoter.

    I’m #10 in the Free Fiction on Kindle. And I’m #1 in Christian Fiction on Kindle.

    And even though it’s not the PAID column it’s kind of fun seeing J.A. Konrath, Jack Kilborn’s, The List at 12. 🙂 Thanks for asking. That’s what success looks like to me right now and I’m having so much fun.


    • Jill, I will definitely pass that on to Annalisa, thanks so much, it means a lot. And thank you for sharing your great news. Most of all, congratulations on becoming a shameless self-promoter! In this brave new world of e-publishing it’s the only way to go!

  6. Joe, what amazing poise and presence your daughter must have! When I was 15 I spent much of my time wishing I could disappear into the pavement. I’m so impressed by someone being so focused and pulled together at such a young age,
    As far as success is concerned, my definition of it for myself has evolved over the years. Right now the most important thing for me is to have raised healthy, happy daughters. In this, I can count myself as successful.

    • Kathryn, I’ve had any number of friends tell me similar stories. If I had to go through adolescence again I would start looking for a new rope. It’s nice to hear that your daughters turned out like their mom. Thanks for sharing.

  7. And John, congratulations for the short story, In the After. You should come back an blog about it. In fact, you should come back and blog about how you did it, etc.

    Congrats again,

  8. Congratulations on the great news about your daughter. I do recall wanting go into acting when I was her age, but decided to let my characters do the talking for me. My idea of success is to get rid of the brain fog, pick up the pace with this wip and get it published before the end of the year, then sign another contract and do it again, get more books out into ebook world…I have a lot of dreams.

  9. I really like the personal touch on this blog. It’s very clear you guys and gals care about writers and are doing this in part, to give back to the writer community.

    Have any of you thought about being a mentor for an aspiring writer?



    • Thank you, Kerry. It’s been my experience that authors and writers, arguably more than in any other occupation, unselfishly “give back” to the art by way of encouraging and helping those who are new to the field.

  10. Congrats to both, your daughter and Mr. Gilstrap!

    Success to me would be Stephen King emailing me about how much he enjoyed my short story and how he’d found it on Amazon while doing research for his next novel. 😀

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