Monday, December 11, 2006

Using Setbacks to Grow

The last time I wrote an entry was in January. At that time I promised to update this blog more often. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I’ve been so busy, life has been very full, many opportunities have presented themselves, and thus, the year has flown by.

I have been working with a talent manager since April, and recently, have been getting holds and call backs and booked my first principal, non-speaking role in a commercial. A casting director has also taken me under her wing, giving me feedback on auditions when I have them at her agency. I enrolled in a couple of her commercial technique classes, and after these classes is when I started receiving callbacks, holds, and the commercial booking. Both of these people have been a huge help to me this year, and I am eternally grateful—they took a chance on me when few others would.

I also finished my book Rebirth: A Leukemia Journal. A little over two months after meeting with Carolyn French at Fifi Oscard, I finally completed the book proposal that she had requested. I mailed it November 28th. My acting teacher had referred me to her, so it was nice to have this “in.” However, this past Saturday, December 9, I got on-line at home and saw a message from Carolyn’s assistant. I knew it was bad news, and it was. Here is the message:

Dear Deborah,I'm afraid we have some unfortunate news that means we will be unable to take on your book. Since we met with you, a client has submitted a revision of a book whose subject material conflicts with yours. Because we must honor our commitment to previously signed clients before taking on new ones, we must pass on REBIRTH.We're very sorry and wish you the best with finding an agent to represent this heart-wrenching piece of work.Best,Nancy BeardAssistant to Carolyn French

I am a bit perplexed by this because when I met with Carolyn she gave no indication that any client of hers was writing a book similar to mine. In fact, she made a point of telling me that she didn’t place these types of books and would have to do some research. I also received my returned book proposal on Saturday; it was returned to me unread, or so it appeared. It looked as though nothing in the folder had been touched. It was returned to me in less than two weeks time, so there is no way it could have been read, with the volume of proposals they receive. All of this is very disappointing.

Still, I want to use this setback as a means of growth. One positive from it is that I have learned how to write and have written a book proposal, and I think it’s a darn good one. Another positive is that I had considered self-publishing the book while Carolyn was looking for a publisher (if, in fact, she decided it was a work worth backing). Now I can go ahead and self-publish it, without anyone’s approval, and get it out there to help the people who need it, rather than waiting six months or longer to see if a mainstream publisher picks it up. I now have control over it again. So, even though the quick rejection was/is disappointing, I am trying to focus on what I learned from the experience and how it can be a positive force for moving the book forward. Obviously, Fifi Oscard is not the agency with whom I should be working.

In the meantime, Dr. Goldberg, my oncologist, is writing a foreword to the book and reviewing it for any medical inaccuracies. What a lovely man to do this for me! So, now I will decide which self-publishing company to use, cut the manuscript again—try to get it to 300 pages (it was previously cut from 489 to 400 pages), make any revisions Dr. Goldberg deems necessary, and then, hopefully, self-publish it in February.

I refuse to let setbacks get me down. Commercial auditions I had last week that looked promising, did not pan out for me. Ah, well, that is life. I will continue to work toward my goals, and trust that I am doing what I am doing because God has instilled a passion and talent in me for these goals, and I refuse to let that passion and talent go to waste. I have seen the fruits of my labor this year and I will continue to see it. My goals may not transpire on my desired schedule, but I have faith that they will happen.

In the meantime, I have another writing project in the works: contributing to a feminist anthology that my friend, Adele, is working on. My essay is titled: The Accidental Feminist. There will always be that taking three steps forward and two steps back, but I’ll be darned if I allow those two steps back to hinder me. I am thankful that I was wise enough to look for the gifts that my having had leukemia presented. The disease made me re-evaluate much of my life and how I approach obstacles. I’ve always been an optimist and I suppose I always will be. I did allow myself to cry for about fifteen minutes on Saturday after I received the returned book proposal (that appeared to be unread). Then a song crept into my mind and I found myself singing the words: “nothing's impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.” (Pick Yourself Up, lyrics by Natalie Cole)

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's been a long time since I last wrote. It is now January 2006, and I feel the need to post an update on my progress.

I am currently working a long-term temporary assignment at the NFL in Manhattan. I commute four hours a day. I've been doing this weekdays since June 27, 2005. I enjoy working at the NFL, the people are very nice, and the environment, though corporate, is a creative one. I work in the Corporate Development office, which has its hands in most of the other departments at the NFL, and so I get to meet many people.

I have been working on my book and it is progressing nicely. The manuscript is written and all the research is currently being incorporated into it. Once that is done, I will make one last read-through to make final revisions (I've made numerous revisions to date but find that the manuscript can always be improved upon).

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, for whom I've been doing volunteer work, has asked me to be the Honored Teammate for the Northern New Jersey chapter's spring Team in Training (TNT). Participants train to run or walk a marathon, cycle 100 miles, or complete a triathlon. Team in Training is the signature fundraising program for the LLS. My job is to keep the participants motivated as they compete in my honor. I am thrilled to have this opportunity.

Other ways I've been working with the LLS are as a First Connection Volunteer and as part of the Advocacy Network. I plan to extend my volunteer work, as time permits, once I've moved into my own place, closer to the city and shorten my commute time.

Yes, it's time to move on. I've remained at Barbara and Dan's home far too long, but it is expensive in this area of the country, so I'm trying to make sure my financial house is somewhat in order before venturing out on my own again. I do have to be out of their home by May because Barbara will be giving birth to a baby girl around that time.

And don't think that I have given up my dream of making a living as an actress because I haven't. It has only been put on hold while I get myself organized. Before jumping back into acting, I'd like to complete my book. However, I've definitely been making plans for my return to pursuing my dream. I did do one day of background work on the CBS series, LOVE MONKEY, in November. They've called me three additional times to do background work, and unfortunately, I had to turn them down.

Anyway, right now life is good. My last doctor's visit was January 6th and all my blood counts looked great. My next visit isn't until March 31st. It's hard to believe sometimes that it has been over two years since my diagnosis; time has passed quickly. However, it is all still very clear in my mind. I hope that once I have completed my book, I can let it go and move on to helping others. I'll never forget the experience, but I don't want it to define me—except as a survivor!