How Failing in High School Made Me a Published Author by Rachel Le Rossignol

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Author Article by Rachel Le Rossignol

You show ’em, Rachel! Learn about how Rachel’s determination led her to success, rather than failure. Thanks for your honesty, Rachel!


Okay, I have to be upfront and say that I was a nerdy academic kid, so when I say, ‘failing in high school’, I don’t mean at my subjects. But being that nerdy kid meant high school was not a great experience for me – I was bullied in that sideways way that girls do, with exclusion, name-calling and words intended to hurt. In a way my creativity got me through, because I was always daydreaming, so I was often in a world inside my head. That meant I was oblivious to some of the taunts. But not all of them. Enough got through that I felt like an outsider.

One of the ways I dealt with being excluded and put down was by telling myself that I was going to achieve something with my life. You see, I had a secret dream. I was going to be a writer. I was going to write stories, and one day they would be published. That was the beginning. But it took another failure to really lock my determination in, to set a really concrete goal.

At the end of year 10 my high school gave out prizes for the top student in each subject. But they also had a number of additional prizes, and I set my eyes on one of them. It was the creative writing prize. I figured that if I won that it would prove that I was somebody, that I could do something worthwhile. That I was a writer.

Short-term goals

So, I began a campaign to prove that I was worthy of that prize. I wrote short story after short story. And I gave every single one to my English teacher. I totally bombarded her. To be honest, she probably started to go ‘oh no, not another one’ when she saw me coming down the hallway. But I wanted that creative writing prize so badly. So, I spent all my time finding story ideas and developing them and crafting them into written work.

The end of the year came, and they announced the prize winners. I sat there confident that I would win the creative writing prize, because I had put in so much work and because I really, really wanted it. And needed it, to show all the people who had put me down over my high school years that I was worth something. But when they announced it, the winner was someone else. I was shattered.

Long-term goals

But I kept writing. And two years later I entered a short story competition run by the newspaper – and won! That win, along with the feedback from my year 12 English teacher, which is engraved on my heart – “You are a writer, Rachel” – was enough external validation to keep my writing for a long time. Because it takes a long time to get good at it, to really learn the craft. And it takes persistence, in the face of lots of rejection. The writers who get published on their first attempt are rare.

Luckily, I found something that helped me persist. Somewhere during the years where I was honing my skills as a writer, the little nugget of sadness that still sat inside because I hadn’t won the creative writing prize turned into a nugget of determination. After a time, I swore that one day, when I was a published author, I would go back to my high school, and I would give them a copy of my book. I would show them!

Dreams come true

Well, last year I did just that. I walked through the front door of the school, a door I had last walked through on the last day of year 10 and sat down with the principal. I gave her my debut novel and told her my story. They took a photo of me with my book and put it in the school newsletter and on the school Facebook page. I was an old scholar who’d achieved something notable. It took many years, but I achieved my goal.

Looking back now, the creative writing prize itself is almost irrelevant. But failing in high school to win a prize I desperately wanted led to my goal to show them they were wrong. Which gave me the determination to stick to my dream of becoming a published author. And, just as importantly, when I was trying to win the prize, the very act of writing story after story was the beginning of honing my skills as a writer. I’m sure my teenage self would think I was crazy if I told her winning the prize wasn’t important. What’s important is having a goal, and holding onto it no matter how hard things get.

 

Rachel Nightingale: website | facebook | twitter

Columbine’s Tale: website | Odyssey Books



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