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The Fail Better Queen

July 22, 2010

Guest Blog Post by Phyllis Smallman

One day I realized that thirty years had passed while I was doing laundry and there was nothing to show for it but more laundry.  There was not even failure to show I’d tried.

I was well into my forties and at a turning point when someone asked me what I was going to do with the rest of my life. “I want to write,” I said, shocking myself. This was my daydream, the fantasy that would never be, but having confessed my dream out loud to a friend who believed, some follow through ethic made me try and try and try – through reams of rejections, a whole forest of rejections.

But failure is better than never attempting to achieve your dream.  I’ll take the rejections any day over the emptiness that life would have held for me if I’d never tried. Being published was the icing on the cake but I’d still have the cake, the substance of my dream, if I’d never seen my book in print.  I’d have only an empty cake pan without that blurted response and a friend that thought writing was a perfectly normal thing to do.

There’s a quote by Samuel Beckett that I love. It goes something like this, “Ever try? Ever fail? No matter. Try again. Fail Better.” I’m the Fail Better Queen.  There were five unpublished novels before I wrote my first mystery, MARGARITA NIGHTS, which was short listed for the Debut Dagger in the UK, nominated for the Malice Domestic in the US and won the first Unhanged Arthur from the Crime Writers of Canada. Because of this award it was published in 2008 by McArthur & C0. – when I was 62. In 2009 it was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.

Dreams come true at any age.  There isn’t a magic line we cross when we stop reaching for goals. Okay, maybe I won’t be a ballerina after all, but there are other dreams just as good.  And it’s the reaching for them that is the true reward. After all, as the song says, “You gotta have a dream cause if you ain’t got a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”

Phyllis Smallman is the author of three Sherri Travis mysteries. The most recent, A Brewski for the Old Man, was published in March 2010.

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