Before I became a writer (or a wife or a mother), I was a ballet dancer. I danced in Europe for most of my career—in Iceland, Italy, Germany, and Austria. For nearly six years I stitched together gigs here and there, which required a mix of talent, timing, and connections. I thought I’d finally cracked the code when I landed three great jobs that would keep me employed for the following year.

But then, all in the same week, the three companies contacted me again. I sat on the couch with a letter from Austria, a fax from Germany, and a telegram in Italian—all informing me of the same news: they were rescinding the job offers. None of the companies was willing to file the paperwork to extend my EU visa. It had nothing to do my dancing.

This is the scene that came to mind last summer when I read email after email from the agents, editors, and publishers I’d come to know in the six years since I started writing the memoir about my identical twins boys who’d been born three and a half months premature.

“The writing is lovely,” they all said in one form or another. “But we don’t know how to market your book” (which, I realized, is code for “we don’t know who will read this.”) The emails wished me luck and sometimes even said that mine was a story that deserved to be told (after, of course, informing me that they would not be the ones helping me tell it.)

I had a choice. I could continue to fish for agents. I could send out a hundred queries to find the one agent willing to go to bat for me and hope that she would have the same persistence looking for editors and publishers.

Or I could take things into my own hands.

I didn’t have to go back to America all those years ago. I could have stayed in Italy and appealed the decisions. But I didn’t want to spend months writing letters in languages I didn’t quite know, filing papers and calling offices when I could just go back home and dance.

That’s how I feel about my memoir. These last six years I’ve learned a lot about writing and the publishing industry. I’ve learned a lot about building a writing community. I even helped found a nonprofit writing group for moms. Three years ago, we self-published an anthology of our essays. When I realized that I knew who to contact to edit my work, who could design the book cover, and who would be my publicist, the decision to publish my book myself was as easy as boarding the next plane for home.

Which brings us back to me crying on the couch with three rejection letters. The week after I flew home from Italy, I was offered a job dancing with a ballet company in San Francisco. Shortly after that, I met my future husband. The friend who introduced us is now godmother to my daughter.

I still wonder what might have happened if I’d tried to keep dancing abroad, just as I might always wonder what would have happened if I kept querying agents. But I also know that leaving when I did helped set the stage (no pun intended) for future accomplishments—a college degree, a family, a new career as a writer.

Sometimes it’s up to you to shape your own destiny. And when you recognize that the time is right, it’s up to you to make it happen.

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Comment by catherine meara on March 9, 2017 at 3:48pm

I really like the way you write. Very clean and descriptive.

Comment by Caitlyn Mitchell on March 3, 2017 at 12:46am

Splendid level of writing! I propelled from this perusing fiction and potentially caught material for my utilization. Much obliged for sharing your own Story! Matt Long Ghost Rider Jacket

Comment by Nancy E. Devine on March 2, 2017 at 10:48pm

Thanks for sharing an honest and wonderful story that illuminates the circuitous nature of our lives along with the power of perception--knowing when to leave, and when to self-publish. For me, this one is a "little-did-I-know" story, which are among my favorites. And they're featured in the film "Stranger than Fiction,"if you recall, with Dustin Hoffman as the English Professor. Your book will be read, and there seems to be a bit of a drumbeat for one about your ballet career as well!

Comment by Janine Kovac on March 2, 2017 at 4:37pm

@Patricia, sometimes we only see this in retrospect!

@Kathryn, great success story. Kudos to you for making it happen!

@Maria, :-) I hadn't thought of that BUT I am working on a second memoir--the husband, wife and their three kids who all dance in the Nutcracker. 

Comment by Maria Murnane on March 2, 2017 at 4:31pm

@Janine, have you thought about writing a novel based on what happened to your dancing career -- but if you'd figured out a way to stay in Europe? Maybe you married a friend to get the visa? Then maybe you became super successful but had to miss out on true love, which apparently was back in the USA the entire time? When I read your blog post I kept thinking what an interesting story that would be. Just something to keep in mind for the future. Sorry for the tangent haha. Best of luck with your memoir! :)

Comment by Patricia Robertson on March 2, 2017 at 1:28pm

"The week after I flew home from Italy, I was offered a job dancing with a ballet company in San Francisco. Shortly after that, I met my future husband." Sounds like a classic example of how, when God closes a door, she opens a window. :)

Comment by Kathryn Meyer Griffith on March 2, 2017 at 11:13am

Your story reminds me of my own, except I spent 30 years hitting my head against the wall publishing with traditional publishers, making very little but selling lots of paperbacks. So like you, five years ago I fought to get all my 15 books' rights back going back to 1984 and self-published them. I knew little at first but I learned. I created paperbacks with Create Space, worked with ACX narrators and made audio books, and formatted and put out my own eBooks. Got a great cover artist. I am SO GLAD I did all that. Five years later I am making money and learning more every day; have now totally published 24 (soon to be 25) novels. I am now the driver in my own life's car. Like you I came to a crossroads and, luckily, I took the right side road. Good for us!

Comment by Janine Kovac on March 1, 2017 at 5:25pm

Thank you for reading, Kritstin (and for featuring!)

Comment by Kristin Bustamante on March 1, 2017 at 9:26am

Thank you for sharing this! I'll be featuring in a newsletter to our community soon!


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