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My Journey to Success – One Year Later

img_7076-e1495430979512I wrote this post a year ago and decided to update it one year later. After I won the ACFW Genesis award for my manuscript, The Barber Surgeon. No, winning the Genesis did not grant me an agent or a publishing contract although it can, and likely will (I hope!) help move me farther along that path.

But this isn’t a post about a successful person explaining how they achieved success. It’s about the self-defined and highly personal journey to success. The getting there.


One of the many things I’ve learned professionally that applies directly to writing is “managing expectations”. It’s easy to be starry eyed like I was in high school. I remember writing a “where would I be in 20 years” essay. I was basically CEO of Procter and Gamble with two school-aged children. The reality, I’m a mid-level professional, working part-time, my husband of 19 years and 20+ years later, a tween and a young teen. My definition of success is my job that allows for work-life balance. I’m praying this includes transitioning into a specialty that is a great match for my skills and personality. Prayers appreciated!

Like every other writer out there, we dream of best-seller lists and 6-figure advances for our sequel. The reality is most writers don’t make a living on writing fiction alone. My new definition of success is publishing full-length novels that resonate with my readers. I’m also excited that I have two short stories that have recently released “Being Seen” in Tales of Ever After and “Detention” in Out of the Storm, which is a re-release. I have two more scheduled, another re-release and a brand-new story. Stay tuned.


Few things have torqued me off more than the backlash from people who are “out-of-shape” being offended by “in-shape” people offering words of encouragement as they exercise.

Not that it matters. Whether you’re posting about 1-mile walks or the progress on your first fun run, or you’re a Top 20 triathlete completing your annual full Iron Man race, I’m going to be encouraging you. That’s what I do.

Same goes for my friends in the writing world. Whether it’s your first contest win or short story publication or your an established author winning a major writing award or ranking on a Best Seller list, I’m there cheering you on! Why? Because I so loved getting congratulations when I had my stories published. I remember the thrill of signing my first contract (and every one since then), and when I won the Genesis Award! It was a big deal to me, and I loved others rejoicing with me!


It’s easy for me to be discouraged meeting writers who are younger than me achieving success. Whether it’s an author who’s young enough to be my child or someone my age who has a decade or two of publishing credits. Extrapolate that in proportion for successful older writers. There are also those who started the writing journey with me who’ve already been published, won awards, and/or hit best-seller lists.

When the curtain is pulled back, I more often than not, find out that they really had a head start. Writing is a new journey for me. If I laid it next to my engineering career, I’m doing great. Seven years into my engineering career, I was just starting. I was barely a level 3 engineer. Twenty years into my career, I’m registered in two states as a Professional Engineer. However, to achieve that status, I had to have a four-year degree in engineering and four more years of experience. Never mind the two grueling exams. As a writer, I’m a high school graduate with four years’ experience. You can get a P.E. that route too, but it takes ten years’ experience.

There’s a meme out there that describes “overnight success” as ten years’ of obscurity getting there. Going by that measure, I have to put in three more years. Hopefully by then I’ll have an agent and publishing contract, which are the next steps in my definition of success.

Life is a journey. And as with any form of travel, it’s not worth taking the road unless you enjoy each sight along the way.

What is your definition of success?

About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

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