Word of the Year – May Check-in

early morning in Torquay, Hervey Bay

Remember how last month I told you how a meltdown had pushed me off the healthy living wagon in a massive way? Well, this month hasn’t been much better. I was of two minds to even mention it in this post – as my mother always says if you can’t say anything nice either talk about the weather or don’t say anything at all. Besides, from the outside it looks as though life is perfect.

So I was going to do the Pollyanna pretend thing, but then my partners in crime co-hosts of this linky reminded me that it’s about being real, so real it is. More on why this month has been so challenging later, but in consequence, this is a longer wrap-up than normal.


I haven’t moved every day. I haven’t walked every morning. I have, however, still done my online strength sessions, but other than that…

I could blame the rain. It’s been another record-breaking month for rain here on the so-called Sunshine Coast. It’s rained on 21 of the 27 days so far this month and we’ve had 6 times the average rainfall for May – which is usually blue skies, mild days and picture-perfect. Already this year we’ve had over 1700mm – which is more than our average annual total. With it, we’ve also had unseasonably hot and humid days.

I could also blame a mid-month meltdown – more on that below. Whatever the reason, I didn’t move as much as I should.

Fun Stuff

Grant and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary and 33rd year together with a weekend in the Tweed Valley. Yes, it rained, but it was also very lovely.

I followed that up with a week in Hervey Bay with Sarah. While I was still day-jobbing as normal, I did get to catch up with my friend Debbish – always a highlight of a visit to the Bay.

Torquay Pier, Hervey Bay

Grant and @adventurespaniel came up the following weekend and we took a drive to Toogum, further up the coast, for lunch at a new to us (and dog-friendly) café, Goody’s.

Other than that I rarely ventured outside.

Authory stuff

Now we come to the meltdown.

Several years and eight published books ago I decided that with the right team I could produce a quality novel and publish it myself. No one was going to tell me what I could and couldn’t write; the indie path was, therefore, for me. I wrote about the decision here.

Mostly though, every time I got a rejection – even if it was a “good” rejection – I would collapse into an absolute emotional wreck. Puddle on the ground emotional wreck in the way you collapse into an emotional wreck when you want something so badly and know in your bones that you can get there.

I desperately wanted to write – had so many stories to tell – but also realised that my mental health couldn’t deal with the way I handled rejection. Sure, it’s something that all authors have to deal with, but I decided I wouldn’t put myself through it anymore.

Although I’ve struggled with marketing and selling enough books, it’s (on the whole) a decision I’ve been happy with and heading into 2022 I saw no need to change that. My focus was, instead, on publishing two new books, writing another two and spending some more time mastering this marketing caper.

Then I wrote Philly Barker Investigates.

While I’m proud of everything I’ve published, Philly was the book I’d always wanted to write. At the same time, my regular cover designer announced she wasn’t going to be doing covers anymore and I thought maybe I should give pitching to a publisher one more shot. Maybe…

I sat down and chose three UK based publishers and crafted submissions, deciding to give myself two months for responses to come back and if they weren’t positive I’d release Philly myself – what did I have to lose?

Rationality flew out the window when the first rejection floated in one Tuesday night – the literary equivalent of it’s not you, it’s me. I melted down on the spot in the exact way I used to, as if my body had muscle memory of it. While I’ve learnt enough about the industry in the past 7 years not to take it personally, knowing that and knowing that are two very different states of mind.

I barely slept that night with the same “you’re just not good enough and you’ll never make it as an author so be grateful for your day job” running around in my head that I’d had all those years ago when I was first pitching. Any positive feedback I’d received over the years was discounted as “they were obviously just being nice and why did I allow myself to believe it” and every piece of well-meaning advice about needing to learn to enjoy the work that pays my bills and you’re too old to still believe in fairy tales was on replay in my brain. I ate all the carbs, drank all the wine, and indulged in a pity party for one. Then, of course, I felt even worse about myself – and beat myself up for that too.

Just as I’d decided enough was enough, I received an email from another of the publishers. While she felt that cosy crime wasn’t quite right for them (and a hard sell commercially unless you’re established or Richard Osman), she wanted to read Happy Ever After and Escape To Curlew Cottage. Despite my best intentions, my hopes rose again. This was, I thought, it.

But it wasn’t. Thankfully she got back to me within a week and said that while she loved my writing and enjoyed the books, heart-warming and “soft” women’s fiction is a hard sell commercially for them – unless you’re established. As rejections go it was a lovely one – and a sound one – yet that somehow made it worse.

Cue meltdown number two – even messier than number one. This time it felt like the end of a dream. All my old fears regarding rejection and failure and not being good enough were triggered and I wallowed in a decent fug for a week.

It was only when I finally spoke out loud about it that I began to see the cracks of light and the way back out. Surprise flowers arrived from a lovely friend and Instagram reminded me of that time seven years ago when we opened a bottle of Bolly to celebrate the launch of Baby, It’s You. Somewhere along the line I’d forgotten to celebrate publication day and the work I’d done.

That was when I sat down and thought clearly about what I needed to learn from all of this.

Did I still want to write? Yes – my end goal is still for it to replace my day job. While I realise that the majority of authors don’t ever make a living with their writing, I don’t see why I have to subscribe to that belief.

Do I want to keep pitching? For the sake of my mental health, no, I don’t. If it means I have to keep doing it myself, that’s what it means.

If that’s the case, what needs to change and what do I need to learn?

I’ve gone back to basics and started from scratch at the business level and am revisiting a Self-Publishing and Ads For Authors course I paid for and then skimmed through without doing the work. After completing the first module I’ve updated my author website, and attached a reader magnet to help build my mailing list. (You can claim your free book here.) Next up is a look at my social media and then a revamp of my author ads.

In between, I’ve completed the structural edit for It’s In The Stars, and sourced what I hope is my new cover designer – although we still have a way to go before nailing the cover of Philly Barker.

I’m finding my way out of the fug and, in other news, I think it might even have finally stopped raining. And this morning the Moon and Venus were sitting so prettily together in the night sky (you can sort of still see them in the pic below – taken after our walk but still before the sun was up). Things are looking up again.

On the Blogs

Aside from something about Tweed Valley, High Tea in the Hinterland and the regular What’s On My Bookshelf, over on BKD you’ll find:

And finally…a selfie.

My word of the year is, after all, me!

On the last Friday of each month (Southern Hemisphere), the co-hosts of What’s On Your Bookshelf hold a link up for readers to share their reflections and actions inspired by their Words of the Year (or goals/intentions for 2022). SueDebDonna and, of course, myself are looking forward to you joining us and sharing how you have focused on your WOTY during the previous month. The linky is below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

32 thoughts

  1. Oh Jo, this was good to read – not in a ‘poor you’ kind of way but in a wow you are so clever, talented and real kind of way. It’s so good to see you get back on the horse and realise that there are things you can do and then do them. You are a brilliant writer (among other things) and I’m so proud to have you as a friend. Being real, authentic, open, honest – call it what you will – is a real gift to all of us, along with your fabulous books. So thank you for being you and being real xx

    1. Thanks Debbie – I didn’t want it to sound as though I was after sympathy or a pat on the head. I’m so glad I have you in my corner.

  2. NEVER ever discount the effect of weather and mood. Talk about all the negative planets aligning. Knowing yourself, letting see your vulnerability in this very raw and honest past is the best way forward (in my opinion)…as for the eating.moving thing, that will all come back/together when JO has some of her self belief on board. I can already see it has, with the re-doing of a course, and changing some of the things you are in control of. This would be, for me, the most honest (I am big on this) post I have see you write. NOW, onward and all that..but with the different mindset I already feel coming from you. So proud of how you are coming through those muddy fields of life to the smoother sands of your beloved beach. Love Denyse x

    1. Thanks Denyse. I tend not to do the completely vulnerable posts – mainly because I’m concerned how trivial it all seems. There’s that voice in my head saying “no one’s interested in your problems Joanne…”

  3. Oh I am so sorry to hear how rejection sent you spiraling downwards; though it is completely understandable! I am definitely an emotional eater and then tend to beat myself up afterwards for eating emotionally as well. I do think you are a fabulous author and I’m glad to hear you are not giving up.

    1. Thank you… It’s ludicrous how something that you know is not personal can trigger a spiral like that. Seems really quite trivial when you look at it rationally.

  4. I can totally understand how rejection affected you and how going self-publishing will be less stressful despite the added work. I can relate to that in what I’m trying to do myself with graphic design (looking for jobs vs freelance). I hope the next few months will be better for you and I’m happy you are not giving up your dream! And Sue et al is right – these posts are about being real and honest. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jo, I’m glad to hear you get back to your writing and self-publishing. You’ve accomplished a lot since your first book while working your day job and managing other life commitments. Very few people can do that. I hope the weather improves in your area and you keep believing in yourself and enjoy writing. Thank you for your #weekendcoffeeshare.

  6. Oh, Jo, I feel for you. I had a meltdown after some feedback from a prospective mentor a few months ago. My inner monologue sounded just like yours, and it took me a couple of months to get out of my funk and start finding joy in writing again. I’m not quite ready to give up on querying (though I haven’t queried in over a year… I keep making excuses not to), but if I do, it’ll probably be for the same reason as you: it’s brutal on the mental health, and it sucks the joy out of my favorite creative pastime. I’m glad you’ve found success with self-publishing. I may go that route too…eventually.

    Hang in there.

    p.s. Your selfie is adorable. I love your hair!

    1. It’s amazing how it can have such a lasting impact on you isn’t it? Self publishing is hard, but very rewarding – I love that it means I don’t need to ask permission to follow my curiosity and write what I want to write – even if that isn’t as commercial as it perhaps should be.

  7. Thank you for sharing such an honest and authentic post. I think everyone harbours a deep limiting belief about the fear of rejection – I know I certainly do. It is for that reason I have been following your self publishing journey. You have given me a glimpse that maybe I can pursue my dreams without the need to jump through the old publishing constructs that I know would also make my self esteem crumble. So remember you are an inspiration to many and be kind to yourself xx
    Ps my brother is an illustrator (based in the UK) and might be able to help out with book covers if you get stuck

    1. Your comment made my day… thank you. Thanks also for the recommendation of your brother… I’ll bear that in mind!

  8. So raw, so real. I felt your agony… something only a good writer can accomplish! I give you so much credit for getting back up, dusting yourself off, and continuing on! Courage. You are showing us all how it’s done. Thank you for your vulnerability and your example of strength. (P.S. I never even considered any route but self-publishing because I knew I could not handle the rejection…the fact you’ve tried multiple times and keep going is simply amazing to me.)

    1. Thanks Pat – I truly thought that after 7 years I’d be more rational and able to deal with it, but it all felt just as raw as it did back then.

  9. Thank you for sharing this authentic, vulnerable post. Putting yourself out there and being rejected (even when it is them and not you) is so hard. I am glad to hear that you are moving forward in a way that is best for you. Your resilience and courage are inspirational. I wish you peace of mind and a little sunshine!

    1. Thanks Christie. It’s a tough one to share – I was so afraid it would come across in a victim sort of way and I didn’t want that. I am moving ahead and (I think) back on track…

    1. Thanks… I’m not usually that honest about things, but it feels good to have been. Have a great week.

  10. Hi Jo! I’m so very glad you wrote this post and opened up about the good and ‘not so good’ parts of your month. Life can be tough but the last photo of you is totally YOU! The smile (even though sometimes it might be hard to keep smiling) the showing up or accepting when you don’t show up and then getting back on track. I’m so proud to have you as my friend. Happy anniversary to you both and despite the disappointment I still think Philly will be a hit!!! Love you xx

  11. I still love that selfie of yours Jo – it’s quintessential Aussie isn’t it? Sorry to hear about the down side of authoring – if it’s any consolation, you are amazing to have so many novels in your head and the desire and ability to get them down “on paper”. I’m writing a post next week about a condition I have that I think maybe why I’ve never had a novel inside me waiting to be born – I’d be interested to hear what you think if/when you read it.

    In the meantime, good on you for pulling up your socks and putting on your big girl panties, and getting on with the show – fame and fortune may be just around the corner – or down the road…..hope springs eternal. And I think you’re great! xx

  12. I’m glad this month has been better…It’s tough when things throw us for a loop. I have felt that way the last week. Ugghh…I can relate to the rain. We have had a crazy wet spring, and I’m ready for more sun. Happy Anniversary!!! THank you for sharing what caused the meltdown. I can definitely see how that would be the case when you work so hard for something but keep going!

    What a beautiful selfie!!

  13. Hi Jo, I know you are not looking for an ‘atta girl’, but you’ll get one from me anyway. I think your life is pretty amazing, but none of us can have unicorns and rainbows all the time. Just to have all those books flowing around in your head is so impressive. And the thing is, not only are they inside your head, they are good. I have a couple of friends who have self-published and quite frankly, they suck. Today, almost anyone can say they are a ‘published’ author, but very few have a true following. Kudos to you for accomplishing that. As far as falling off the wagon with health and fitness – couldn’t we spend days on that conversation? My mood and good habits are related and sunshine (or the lack of it) is by far the biggest determining factor as to which way I’ll go. Wishing you lots of days of sunshine!

  14. Wow you write, publish, and hold on to a full-time job. Maybe it’s because I am fairly new to the motherhood thing, I feel like I just work and while barely keeping myself together with other things like caring for the house and doing laundry. Writing on a blog is a hobby I do too, but I feel when I blog post, I am half asleep while doing it most of the time. Very impressive! I also like how you are honest about your publishing journey too. People say empty platitudes like “persistence!” but no details about the rejection or why things are worth persisting.

    1. Thanks Julie. I hear you – motherhood (especially those early years) is a massive job, so don’t be hard on yourself. I didn’t start writing properly until Sarah was in high school & then it was a tad easier. But those early years? That was a juggle between being a mum, a wife, and holding down the job. Let’s just say the house work always came last.

  15. Joanne,
    Congratulations on your authenticity and vulnerability in sharing your self-publishing journey.

    You have just spelled out how a newbie indie author should ‘soldier on’ with their self-published book irrespective of how many ‘nos’ they receive.

    Be sure to reach out directly for details on how to get a book review published on ThExtraordinariOnly website.

    Remember, you are so many steps ahead!

    Ps. Found your blog as I was researching on the word of the year link party!

    H Emma || https://thextraordinarionly.com/book-review-of-beyond-the-bay/

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