The Most Important Word — Particularly For An Unpublished Author

Monica D Drake
4 min readMar 15, 2022

These days I have three books out and three more in the works, along with essays and stories in various publications, many which I’m proud of, working with editors I adore.

This hasn’t come easily, at all. If you’re working towards publication though perhaps having trouble finding those outlets, I’m here to cheer you on.

Before I really started writing, when I was only intermittently throwing a few words down on the page and drafting the occasional poem or story, I had the good fortune of meeting a prolific science fiction legend, author Connie Willis.

Connie Willis gave me a few pointers. She offered some thoughts on sentences and story structure. Along with her craft suggestions, there was one word which she used that has fueled my vision and my career ever since, which has helped me keep going, even in the years before my first book deal, and in the lulls between publications.

One word.

I spent most of ten years learning how to write my first novel. I wrote it one way, then re-wrote it in an entirely different approach, then re-wrote it, re-envisioned it, again. I wrote three books, essentially, in order to write one book. I was also working, sometimes at multiple jobs, and parenting. The literary world is cluttered with opportunities for rejection.

When I wrote an oddball novel, Clown Girl, at first agents and editors turned it down, but something in the work caught their attention all the same; they’d pause and ask questions, like “Why doesn’t she [the main character, a clown] have a better job?” or even, “Portland…where?” Some, in New York, seemed to think I might be in Portland, Maine, back before Portland, Oregon had made more of a name for itself.

A few editors doubled back, saying that the novel had stayed on their mind, asking if I’d found a publisher…and still, they didn’t pick it up.

So much has changed, since then. By now, Portland is widely recognized, the “Great Resignation” has illuminated a nation re-thinking their relationship to those “better jobs,” and clown culture has increased its profile. Ha!

And, my book found a publisher, then I wrote two more.



Monica D Drake

Monica Drake is the author of the novels, Clown Girl and The Stud Book, and the linked story collection, The Folly of Loving Life.