Great Expectations

This wasn’t an easy post to write.  I’ve sat on it for days, thinking about it, and wondering if I should write about this topic at all.  It’s likely (probably) premature for me to even think the way I am, but I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I’m what I call an “advance worrier.”  Meaning, I worry about sh*t in advance, and likely when I shouldn’t.  Can’t.  Help.  It.  Blame Mom.  Hey, I blame her. Dad never got overly concerned about much, while Mom worries about EVERYTHING.  Here’s a snippet of our conversation recently:

Me:  Hey, what’re you doing?

Mom:  Oh, I just got this disclaimer in the mail from Medicare.

Me:  What does it say?

Mom:  That my MRI might not be covered.

Me:  Mom, we talked about this before, that’s just a standard form letter they send out.

Mom:  But they say they might not cover it.

Me:  They will.

Mom:  I don’t know.  I’m going to call them.

Me:  Do whatever you need to do for peace of mind.  So, what else is going on?

Mom:  I think I saw a snake in the yard yesterday.  I better not work outside today.

Me:  That was yesterday, it’s long gone by now.  Go get some fresh air.

Mom:  I don’t know.  The damn thing could be hiding under a bush somewhere.  Waiting.

I think I’m about a 50/50 mix of Mom’s worry and Dad’s non-ruffly nature.  Then I get something like what I’m about to say here in my head, and I even worry about my level of…worry.  Yeah, worry about worrying.  How’s that?  Then I feel that I start to sound like Mom.

Anyway.  Here’s where my head’s at.  There was a slow build up via social media comments and emails which ultimately led to my understanding my debut book is an in-house favorite with my publisher, Kensington.  (heart, be still.)  This is, in the words of a few, a really good thing and hopefully means the book will also do well once it lands in stores.  Like I told my husband, it’s like a gift that keeps on giving.

Meanwhile, for the last several months, I’ve been working on my next project.  It’s a good story – if I can do it justice. (worry!)  Set in 1940, and told from the perspective of the fourteen year old daughter,  Wallis Ann Stamper, it’s about a singing family living in Appalachia who lose their home and all their possessions after a flood.  (the flood is based on historic fact)  Hunger and cold force them to leave, and try to make a living singing.  They eventually join a traveling show, where family bonds are further tested by certain events.

THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, and this current book, working title THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET, are very different, yet I can’t help but worry about comparisons.  Stuck in my head is the idea DIXIE DUPREE is of a different caliber because I had years to work on it, tweak it, massage it, fluff it.  PERFECT it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the story of BITTERSWEET, but I won’t have the same sort of time to work, tweak, massage, fluff, and so I wonder – is it as good as it can be?  I don’t know.

I’ve still got some time here, and my intentions, of course, are to only send my best work – yet, (again) what if?  What if it’s not perceived in the same way as DIXIE?  No matter the stories being different, it’s about the writing.  Right?  There are expectations here – from myself, my agent, my editor, the publisher.  What if there’s head scratching?  Perplexity?  DISMAY?  Even a bunch of WTF’s?  The thought, “how did she write DIXIE DUPREE, then write…this?  I don’t even know what…this…is.”

You know what?  I hate to disappoint people, that’s what it boils down to.  I don’t like folks receiving something from me with a certain level of expectation, only to serve them up a good dose of disappointment.  What I want is for there to be the same level of enthusiasm, and excitement, and all that other great stuff – which came rather unexpectedly with DIXIE DUPREE – to happen with this story.  All the good things said about my debut have me worrying about the possible expectations with this new work.

Maybe I’m crazy to think this way – you know, before I’m even out of the gate, so to speak.  And thus, I begin worry about my worrying.  If only my worry quotient was a little more swayed, leaning more to Dad’s way versus Mom’s.  More like 80/20.

Pink room?  Softy cushy walls?  Is that what you’re thinking? 






I totally get it. I am already worried about the 2nd book and I still don’t have an agent. I am a worrier as well. I also blame my mother. My daughter tells me she never worries about anything because she knows I am already busy worrying for her.

You are a terrific writer, Donna, and the story for Road to Bittersweet sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it.

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    I figured you would Elise – simply b/c of your own posts! Your daughter sounds like mine, although, and heaven forbid…when the three of us get together. There we are, me, Mom and Brooke. Worrying. LOL! We have enough worry to last eons. It’s sort of funny. I think.

    But thank you for your kind words. The concept/premise/theme (water) is all there, let’s see if I can deliver, eh?


Totally get it. Totally understand. Total bullshit. You’re WAY better than you were when you started the Dixie Dupree journey. Way better. Way.

Now cut the crap and get back to editing. You know how to do this.

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And here I thought I was the only one who rose to that level of consternation…. I could remind you that worry is a useless emotion, but, well, why? You’re just going to do it anyway. It’s normal. Especially when you are concerned about your readers–and we appreciate it! I can’t erase your worry, but consider the amount of skill you’ve gained since Dixie. That will shine in your next book. Don’t let worry overshadow the joys of today. I am so happy for your (continued) success with THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE. Revel in the now. The worries will wait until tomorrow…and there’s more magic to make.


    I loved everything you said, and I’m glad I’m not the only one out here who does this. I’m particularly happy about the “normal” part of your comment. 😉 Ha! I think its an awareness of some of the follow up work of other authors that didn’t do so well – or at least it didn’t resonate with me. A great example is Charles Frazier’s book COLD MOUNTAIN which I LOVED. It’s one of my favorite stories. And then he wrote THIRTEEN MOONS. I never finished the book. Then there was Robert Morgan’s GAP CREEK, another fave. For me, nothing he’s written since captured me like that story. And we all know about sequels to our fave movies, right? Anyway. Thanks for your encouraging words!

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With how long it took between my short story acceptances (a year? ish?) I totally get this kind of a worry. But I also don’t think magic like your DIXIE DUPREE magic is accidental.

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    I remember you sending submissions off here and there. I think you worked in a really methodical method and you deserve HUGE congratulations for all you’ve done!!! I’m totally impressed.

    If it weren’t for worry – would we be writers at all? That’s the question. 🙂 I love the last thing you said! Let’s hope the magic lingers on…!


Wouldn’t life be so much easier if “Oh honey don’t worry about it” worked? Le sigh. I feel for you, but READING your work somehow takes priority. Hopefully, very soon, the buzz over DIXIE will drown out your worries!

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    It would indeed…I hope when you do read, you like it. Either way, I need chain saw buzzing loud at the moment. I need to send my agent the ms next month to give him time to read and possibly suggest changes before it gets to the editor. The timelines are getting crunchy.


I wonder how many of us writers are also professional worries? If I was as prolific and successful with my writing as I am with my worrying I’d be on the NYT list.

For what it’s worth, I think both BITTERSWEET and DIXIE sound like great reads. The difference in the books shows versatility, which is a wonderful thing in a writer.

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    Ha, you and me both! When I hear about folks who can pump out a first draft in three months, I’m thinking hu…how? I have done it – once. I wrote a book AND edited the thing in five months. It must not have been too bad – the freelance editor I was working with sent it to an agency in London and an agent there (Amanda Preston) fell in love with it.
    Thank you though, Lucie for the comment about the differences! I’d not thought of it in that way, but more of a side by side comparison. Cause, ya know, these are the things wee woodland creatures worry over.


Donna, you have not a thing to worry about! But fortunately, you are part of a brilliant and talented, loyal group of online woodland creatures who will search out and break the legs of any troll who dares utter one uncomplimentary jot about BITTERSWEET.

But not snakes, though. With snakes, you’re on your own.

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My dear Donna, you’re not a virgin anymore so what’s the problem? You know what works, you know what excites, pleases, makes the reader feel good, so just relax. Your mind and your fingers placed on just the right keys know exactly what turns the reader on. So do it. Enjoy.
They will tell you if they liked it.
Whew, my metaphor is turning me on. Where’s my husband?
Seriously, I’m a worrier too, so I get it. If this is part of your process maybe that’s a good thing.
Ha, my husband is dozing on the couch. I guess I’ll write instead. He has no idea what he just missed.

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    Ah, but 2N’s, each time isn’t quite the same as the last, right? Is hubby still on the couch?
    I knew quite a few out here would get where I’m coming from. These thoughts/worries aren’t new to anyone. And Janet’s post the other day about “harder to stay published than get published,” is something I’ve read over and over.

    Did you write??? Say yes.


      Did I write? You can bet your sweet southern bippy I wrote. Not much but good stuff.

      We finally sold our house, I think, (we find out today), so finding new digs, packing and moving will be cutting into word-time. Downsizing from 4000 sq. feet to a small ranch should be interesting. Can’t wait.
      Ah life, the grist for writing and the great interrupter there of.
      Hey, that should be a JR sub header.
      The worrying thing – don’t worry until you have something to worry about. You can do this, you will do this, better each time. And you know how I know this? I’m like Lilac, I’m psychic.

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      Congrats (pre-maturely?) on selling the house! You talked about this a while back…but I wasn’t sure if you guyz were still doing that. Downsizing seems the right way to go – have fun sorting through all your STUFF. Ya know, once it’s done, you’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief. You’ll have less STUFF to worry with, a house that doesn’t take as long to clean, and MORE time to write!

      Between you and Lilac, and what everyone else said here, I ought to be able to chill. Beer helps too. But it’s too early.


THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET sounds like a WONDERFUL book, and I can’t wait to read it!!!! By the way, I know that everybody will LOVE it. How do I know? I’m psychic, 😉 and you are an OUTSTANDING writer. I read that getting excited helps with performance anxiety more than calming down. So what if this is not exactly “performance anxiety”? Let’s get excited anyway…(actually, I’m already VERY excited for you…). ❤ ❤ ❤

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    Ooooh a psychic! Maybe I ought to get you to do a reading, but sometimes I think it’s best not to know too much, don’t you think?

    Thank you (as always!) for your generous compliments. Okay, I’m excited now too, and I’m virtually jumping up and down with you! ❤ ❤ ❤


Donna, Donna, Donna…well, nothing I say is going to stop you from worrying, but really…:o)
On the other hand, somewhere in the distant mists of time I read an article about stage fright and creative anxiety; that it’s actually a good thing, and makes us perform better than if we were all calm, la-la-la about things.
I have been thinking about this very topic for all the obvious reasons. Before you have an agent/publishing deal/ gallery show, it’s all potential. You don’t have any one to disappoint yet. (I mean other than yourself.) But now, I have someone who is putting his billable hours into me, and what if I don’t cut the mustard?
Okay, let’s just take a deep breath together. We’ll be fine. well, I’m pretty sure at least you will be.

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    I know. It’s like get OFF the whine train Donna and hop on the WINE train instead!

    I like what you said about creative anxiety, which I have enough to spread around it would seem, but yes, it does make me nit-pick, or at least want to have the time to nit-pick. And you’re exactly right in that you only have yourself to disappoint when it’s not up to snuff. The idea of having more than me “in it,” is the difference.

    Btw – I had no idea who “head woozle” was – but then I opened up your comment and saw the adorable panda pic and THEN, I knew! 🙂


      I have many identities here on the inter webs. (and that’s why I signed it “Panda in Chief”) Is there anyone who can beat us up (at least as regarded our creative confidence in ourselves) as much as we can to our very own selves?? I am so excited to get my copy of “Dixie Dupree. I feel like we should have some sort of on line party to celebrate when it finally arrives in our hot little hands. I know the next book is going to be fabulous too. My pandy sense tells me so.

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      Yeah, what Panda said. Sometimes you have to give your good self the hard word and order yourself not to worry until it is time to worry. Write the frickin’ book first, then worry about it.

      Interesting that you are worrying about how the book is going to be received and not worrying whether or not you’re going to finish it. Is it because you’re confident that you will finish this book, or that the power to finish this book (regardless of whether or not you do) is within your hands? Are you worrying about the things you can’t control?


      I hope it meets everyone’s….expectations! 🙂 (man, now I might worry about all the hype, JUST kidding!) But yes! I do think we tend to be harder on ourselves. I tend to overthink things too. (so I’ve been told) Can’t help it! It’s me, it’s who I am. But seriously, everyone’s comments here are doing just what I thought they’d do – lifting me up and making me feel better!

      And I’m all about a party. Bring it!


      @Heidi, actually, I have finished the book. 😉 So, hurray for that, that’s the good news. I think where I’m “worrying” is that DIXIE DUPREE deals with heavy subjects, this book does not. It’s lighter in fare, sort of like being served up a buffet first go round, and next time you come to eat all you get is an appetizer. I don’t know that it has the same tension. A lot happens, but in many ways, I feel like I’ve written about this, this and this, and readers might think something is about to happen… and it doesn’t. If that makes sense.

      We know we get too close to our work and can’t step back far enough sometimes to view it with fresh eyes. As I edit (currently removing unnecessary words like “just, that,” etc.) I’m trying not to read it. That way when I print it out and read it out loud, hopefully I can look at it differently.


Writers have overactive imaginations, so we worry a lot. That you’re aware of your tendency to worry is a good because then you can manage it. As a musician with ancestral roots in Eastern Kentucky, I’m intrigued by your new story. Good luck with it!

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    Mine is in overdrive apparently. I hope I don’t make people from any area in Appalachia say “we don’t talk like that!” (i.e. there are some “I knowed,” and quite a bit of “I seen it,” amongst a few other word tics)

    Well. There you go. That’s another worry. Geez.

    The area I’m focusing on is NC Appalachia – Jackson County to be exact. I’ve included some buck dancing/flat footing too. 😉


Oh lalalalalal! The wiggly worms of creative anxiety. I know this feeling. Just yesterday I had an anxiety attack over not being able to deliver. The expectations. The pressure pot. You feel like you are on stage and naked.

Take a breath. Sit down. Write… Suddenly it will be hours later.

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    Ick, wiggly worms! I’ve never thought of myself as an anxious person – and it’s like now? Who am I kidding?!?! LOL! Anyway, I’ve often wondered how forgiving painting is…with writing we can save drafts, delete (find it again) delete it again…but with painting. IMO, there’s more commitment. There’s likely MORE anxiety. I mean, you can’t backup a painting for one thing. And you can’t create duplicates in case you decide – hm, I liked this version better. Am I helping? No?
    Breathe with me….!


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