I wrote my first novel to unload a story that had weighed heavy on my mind for decades. Having three American born and raised children – ones who know little about their parents’ Iranian history – I hoped the cultural nuances presented throughout the story and the descriptions of my homeland would be my legacy to them. However, proud as I am of my Persian heritage, the recent political conflicts between Iran and the U.S. limited my expectations. Still, deep down I secretly continued to hope that my story would touch the hearts of a few.
Over the years of being a full-time writer, I published more than two hundred articles, vignettes, and short stories. But when it came to a novel, my collection of rejection letters became so impressive that it could discourage any writer. Each time my agent forwarded a new one, I did my best to get past the disappointment and find the good stuff in those letters, which in turn enabled me to once again see the full half of my glass.
A long time ago, I miraculously discovered the secret to happiness. As a young girl, I had envisioned my good fortune to arrive with a charming prince, be a gift even. I also thought such a gift was only given to a select few. Somewhere along the way I realized that true happiness in fact the sum of little joyful moments, and that it’s up to us to learn the art of recognizing those tiny moments and piecing them together: a ray of bright sunshine, the chirp, or a child coming home with a good report card. No matter what destiny has in store, life is a glass that will forever be only half full.
So instead of counting rejection letters, or listening to my agent’s explanations on why my book had not found a “home” yet, I decided to follow the good advice of a friend and take matters in my own hand. Now a year later, it is clear how the editors and I had both underestimated the power of readers.
In the absence of advertisement and without a publisher to support me, my publicity came from readers, who felt a connection with my story and its characters. Each satisfied reader brought in ten more and soon my little novel had started a buzz. Invitations poured in from libraries, bookstores, and major universities and before I knew it, my novel was introducing me to people and not the other way around.
I’d heard such expressions as, “only in America,” or “land of opportunity,” and dismissed them as words of the lucky few. The joy of this unsolicited success proves that in deed only in this country would readers choose their writer from among the unknown – not to mention selecting one whose name is unpronounceable.
As if an extended trip to Cloud Nine wasn’t enough, my novel is also in the “One Book, One San Diego” program for 2012. In each public appearance, I make sure to carry my old typewriter with a bunch of silk poppies stuck inside. The audience may view it as a prop that ties into my novel, but to me they are there’s more than that. The ensemble is a reminder of my “Cinderella” days, of the nights that I stayed up and worked, and the days when I secretly chanted, “I think I can!”
The hard work continues while I rewrite my next novel – The Moon Daughter. Short articles will be submitted as well and in fact, soon I will have my own column in a new women’s magazine from Texas called Zan. But regardless of what comes next, the poppies will forever have their special place. I hope to be an example, a positive messenger to younger, newer writers whose dreams may seem implausible. The clichés about not losing sight of your goal, that hard work pays off and that you should pursue your dreams are all true. As for fairy tales, they’re but an exaggerated version of true stories. Happiness is in loving what you do, and success will follow when others love it, too.