In honor of the release of Erika Marks’s debut novel, LITTLE GALE GUMBO (yes, today’s the day!!!), I’m re-posting the essay she wrote for my Get Inspired series back in January. Please read/re-read, and then run out and pick up your copy of LITTLE GALE!
Happy book birthday to a wonderfully talented and supportive writing friend. Enjoy your day, Erika!
It Only Takes One Yes
By, Erika Marks
On my thirty-second birthday, I moved to New Orleans with my beloved dog, Olive. I took a high-ceilinged apartment on St. Charles, filled my cabinets with chicory coffee, and set the radio dial to WWOZ. I was ready for all the adventure, excitement, and, yes, romance the city could offer. And why not be ready? After several long-term relationships, I was single again and stubbornly optimistic that The One was out there.
Now that’s not to say I didn’t have doubts. Like so many of us who are looking for true love, I had begun to question how many close-calls I’d have to endure before finding The One. And like so many people searching for a road map to love’s erratic course, I took advice wherever I could.
Oh, and there was plenty.
There was the always-popular, Don’t-think-about-elephants line: “Love comes when you’re not looking for it.”
And the old amphibian stand-by: “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince.”
The advice came fast and furious. I nodded. I smiled. I drained my daiquiri.
Then came dinner one damp summer night in a Quarter courtyard with a good friend who had recently found love again. Her wisdom arrived with dessert. “Don’t worry about the ones who don’t work out, sugar. It only takes one yes.”
Now maybe it was the heady smell of star jasmine in the air, maybe it was the blues band next door, or maybe it was the bread pudding drowning in whisky cream. Whatever the reason, I slung the advice around my waist, belted it, and never looked back. Why was I so discouraged? I had been so focused on all the relationships that didn’t work out, when what I should have been doing was reminding myself of the smaller number, perhaps even the smallest number of all! I didn’t need fifty men to be right for me. I only needed one.
Not long after, I met him. I was walking Olive on the banks of the Mississippi River in a misting rain, along the same stretch of levee where he was walking his dog. All of a sudden, the relationships of the past that didn’t work, didn’t matter. I had found the one. And I thank my stars every day.
As writers, we can’t help but spend a good deal of time focusing on the ones who got away, the agents and editors who didn’t want to sign us, the rejections, the passes. We know it’s not personal (as much as it may feel that way) but the No’s still hurt.
But here’s the thing: Just as you don’t need a dozen suitors racing to your door with promises of undying love, you don’t need a dozen agents competing for your work, any more than you need a dozen publishers in a heated bidding war vying for your book. You only need one agent to love your work, and one editor to go to bat for it and come back with an offer to buy it.
It’s a fine number, don’t let the hype fool you. There’s nothing lonely about it.
So if it’s at all possible (and I know it’s usually not), try not to get wrapped up in the numbers. And if you must, envision a far more intimate number when you send out that query or that partial or that glorious full.
Like true and lasting love, it only takes one yes.
(Unless you happen to be a polygamist. In which case multiple offers are probably required.)