Persistence Pays Off for Acclaimed Writer
by Cheryl Fusco Johnson
Meet the author! On Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 7 p.m., at Hoyt Sherman Place, Iowa writer Wendy Delsol will moderate a free “Authors Visiting in Des Moines” appearance by New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot. Wendy herself is a featured speaker at the 2012 Iowa City Book Festival, with appearances in MacBride Hall Saturday, July 14, at 11 a.m. and Sunday, July 15, at 1 p.m.
It’s not surprising that Wendy’s in demand at writers’ events. She makes publishing success look easy. An agent snapped up her young adult trilogy, which is based on Norse mythology and stars a teen girl stuck with the paranormal duty of helping unborn souls choose the right mother. In Stork, her first published book, Wendy acknowledges her “agent extraordinaire” Jamie Brenner who “received a one-page query on Tuesday and signed me on Friday.” Candlewick Press published Stork in October 2010, Frost a year later, and will release Flock, the trilogy’s final installment, in September 2012.
Wendy’s novel The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls was published in 2011 as well. Targeting adult readers, this family saga full of secrets features a grandma, mother, and daughter who run a bed and breakfast in a historic home that once housed unwed mothers. Barnes & Noble dubbed it Pick of the Week. Library Journal concluded,“This intriguing story has plenty to recommend it,” citing the novel’s “thoughtfully created characters” and “strong sense of place.” (It’s set in the fictional town of Scotch Derry, Iowa.)
Wendy’s young adult books earned accolades as well. Stork was nominated for the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and achieved a VOYA Magazine Perfect 10.
Kirkus Reviews called Frost “a superior paranormal adventure,” while School Library Journal praised the book’s themes, “quick-moving” plot, and “beautifully drawn settings.”
This is heady stuff for a woman who once preferred cheerleading to reading. Wendy earned her B.A. (Michigan State University) and M.A. (California State University in Long Beach) in political science, not in creative writing or English, as one might expect. For ten years, she worked in the travel industry as a tour coordinator.
Eventually, though, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ignited Wendy’s love of literature. “For as long as I can remember, upon closing a great book, I would think, I want to do that,” she said on the Iowa Center for the Book website. “Following a medical scare, I altered that phrase to I will do that. Writing is a joy, a privilege, and the fulfillment of a dream.”
Fulfilling her dream wasn’t as easy as it now appears, but Wendy is tenacious. She explained why on VOYA’s website: “My father passed away my junior year of high school. . . . His death threw us into an emotional and financial tailspin. . . . Nonetheless, I now think much of my drive and work ethic is a product of this adversity.
So, shortly before her 40th birthday, when an MRI established that Wendy was suffering from migraines and not a brain tumor, as doctors suspected, she secretly penned a novel. She called this first effort “awful,” but she took classes and saw some improvement on her second try.
Married and raising two young sons at this point, she and her family moved to Des Moines for her husband’s career. At an Iowa Summer Writing Festival course in Iowa City, Wendy met Kimberly Stuart and the new friends forged a writers’ critique group. With the group’s support, Wendy wrote The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls.
Tenacity carried her past many rejections. She eschews the write-what-you-know school of thought. “Write what you’re interested in. Write what you want to know about. Have fun!” she advises.
But she also urges aspiring writers to treat writing like a job. “I set word goals. I like to write 500 words a day Monday through Friday. If I were to boil my success down to one thing, it would be stick-to-itiveness,” she concluded.
©2012 Cheryl Fusco Johnson. In July Cheryl Fusco Johnson will teach “Transforming Memories into Children’s Stories” at the University of Iowa’s Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
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