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Guest Post: Holly Schindler and the Path to Publication

We're excited to present a guest post from Holly Schindler, author of Booklist-starred A BLUE SO DARK. Be sure to read through to find out how to win your own signed copy of A BLUE SO DARK!
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura's dad left them. Convinced that "creative" equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

by Holly Schindler

My debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, was released last May to positive reviews…including a STARRED review in BOOKLIST! But three, four years ago? Those positive reviews seemed about as far away as the moon. My path to publication was a long and winding one.

I graduated with my master’s in the spring of ’01. A lifelong book nut, my ultimate dream was to write. So I jumped at the chance to take my mom up on her offer to feed me while I devoted full-time effort to my writing.

At the time, naïve ol’ me, I figured, a year, year and a half tops, and I have a book written, and of COURSE it would sell right off…probably even be an auction…

Yeah. Sure. The reality? Seven and a half years. I’d write a manuscript, send it out. While I waited for response, I’d write another. While I waited, I’d write yet another…After a few years, I was in a constant cycle of writing new stuff, revising old manuscripts, and pitching my ideas to potential editors and agents.

In seven and a half years, I racked up the rejections. Hundreds of them. But what was actually the hardest to bear wasn’t really the number of rejections but the amount of time it was taking to get started. Friends I’d gone to college with were wrapping up PhDs, getting gigs as professors, and I was still just banging my head against the wall. All I really had to show for it was a stack of unpublished manuscripts that LITERALLY stretched from the floor to the ceiling of my office.

Along about 2006, though, I was really beginning to get GOOD rejections. Not just notes thanking me for submitting, but long-winded emails from editors or agents as to why my work hadn’t been accepted, and how she (or he) felt I could improve my book. I was even getting invitations to resubmit.

It’s REALLY easy, after years of don’t-call-me, we’ll-(never)-call-you messages, to think of an offer to resubmit as lip service. A bunch of bull to help an editor get you out of their inbox. But they MEAN it. Believe me, editors really are busy. (I’m in awe of everything my editor at Flux gets done. Seriously—complete awe.) Agents are just as busy. And if one of them has taken time out of their day to tell you what’s lacking in your manuscript, LISTEN. They’re not taking time to write because they think you stink. They’re taking time to write because they see potential in your work. It’s a compliment.

SEEING rejections as compliments is the key to getting a book deal. In all honesty, it’s how I got mine. I revised A BLUE SO DARK globally at least four times in two years. By the time I approached the acquisitions editor at Flux about the book, it was in shape to BE acquired.

The thing is, writing takes time. And not just the time it takes to type some words on a computer keyboard. It takes time to polish, to understand how to pitch, to know how to develop a story, to create memorable characters. If I hadn’t had all that time (really—seven and a half years of full-time effort! That’s a luxury most writers only dream of), I doubt I’d have a book on the shelves today. But if I’d tossed rejections in the trash, if I’d insisted I was always right, if I’d never been willing to recognize the flaws in my stuff, I still doubt I’d ever get a book on the shelf, even after FIFTY years.

Nobody’s born knowing how to write a book. So don’t assume you have a clue what you’re doing the first time you put your fingers to the keyboard. Know that it will take time—but keep your antennae out for those positive rejections! Good rejections will help you revise with purpose, and cut down on the amount of time it will take to GET to that first publication!

Learn more about Holly at and

Want to win your own copy of A BLUE SO DARK? Leave a comment on this post to enter. Each comment is worth one point. Add +1 point for tweeting this contest and +1 for linking to this on your blog or facebook, for a total of 3 possible entries. Add up your totals and leave them with your comment. Good luck!

Also, don't forget to enter Monday's contest for Janice Hardy's BLUE FIRE. It's BLUE BOOK WEEK at YA Highway!
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. I love the title and the concept of this book! I would love to read it!

  2. This one sounds intriguing from a psychological perspective!

    Tweeted here:

    Total: 2 entries

    A Tapestry of Words

  3. Commenting to enter (+1) - sounds like a great read

  4. I think that looks like a great book. Love the cover! I liked reading about Holly's processing. Good to know that persistence paid off in her case!

  5. +1 for commenting
    +1 for tweeting (

    This book sounds FAB! And, I really really love the cover!

  6. My tweet

  7. This seems like an amazing book! I would definitely want to read it! This is 1 entry.

  8. I would love to read this book.

    +1 Comment
    +1 Tweeted
    +1 Posted on Facebook

    3 Total entries

    seriousreader at live dot com

  9. I'm glad you were able to take those good rejections and make your work that much better. Some people would have given up a long time ago but you kept going. It's very admirable. All that hard work paid off. :) Congrats on your debut, Holly!

  10. Really inspirational post! I love hearing success keeps me going! :)

  11. I'm a slush editor for a SF zine and it makes me so sad to read all these wonderful stories that are just not ready to be published yet. Some are so close, but you have to say no because there are others that are ready. As a writer, you just have to keep working and keep writing and you'll get there eventually.

    The book sounds great. Love the title. +1 for commenting.

  12. Great post, now I actually feel like I might be able to finish my 'attempted novel' thanks!

    +1 commenting
    +1 Tweet -

  13. I love how you talked about rejection. Sometimes people don't realize how much rejection authors go through and how much work it is to get published and create a quality piece of writing.

    +1 commenting
    +1 tweeting -

    clderwee at gmail dot com

  14. Love the cover of this book. Please enter me for it, it sounds fantastic.

    I follow on gfc

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  15. I talked my local independent books store into carrying "A Blue so dark after I told her about it and ask why she didn't have it. I can't wait to read it.

  16. I'm about to read an ARC of this one through ARC tour, but I'd love to actually have a copy in my personal library!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    Total: 1 entry

    cc932005 at hotmail dot com

  17. Wow, you're a trooper. I wonder if I could stay on track so long. But then, I guess I have to...

  18. This sounds amazing! Thanks for the contest!

  19. Thanks for sharing your publication tale with us! Your book sounds great. I'd love to enter to win a copy!:)

  20. Writing has been a six-year journey for me so far. It's amazing that it takes so long, but every day is worth it. Sounds like an interesting book.

    My entry (+1).

  21. This book is right up my alley. Love the idea, and the cover is absolutely gorgeous!

  22. This book looks so great! I love the cover and the description sounds amazing. Congrats on the publication, Holly!

  23. A BLUE SO DARK is a great title and it sounds interesting! I'd love to read it :) Not to mention it has a gorgeous cover!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    anbi14 at hotmail dot com

  24. Thanks for the motivating advice! I can't imagine spending 7 1/2 years writing and writing and getting rejected. It sounds very daunting and demoralizing, but congratulations on all the hard work! I hope that I will learn how to stick with it and continue to push through all the obstacles I face in my writing career whether it be time, studies, confidence or just life's distractions. A writer's journey is not just getting published. It's really about the long road getting there.
    I look forward to reading your book when I have the chance.

  25. Thanks for the motivation.

    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  26. Sounds good!:)

  27. AWESOME Post!!!!! Great motivation! A Blue So Dark has been on my TBR list since the beginning of the year! Can't wait to get to it. :)

  28. this sounds like a wonderful book! i'm glad that holly's persistence paid off!

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com


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Item Reviewed: Guest Post: Holly Schindler and the Path to Publication Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook