Quit every day. — I wanted to quit working on TRINE RISING more times than I can count. Sometimes I sort of did, only to find myself back at it the next day. I could not work on my novel if I tried. My heart would be filled to bursting and I just had to write. I wanted to give this story to others so badly. There’s so much darkness in the world. I’m not trying to teach some huge moral truth in TRINE RISING. It’s for fun, your fun. It’s a time for you to get away from the problems around you and embark on a tale of adventure. Sure, it’s got high stakes, tension, and some grittiness, but in the end, there is light. That’s what makes a good story.
As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewingCindy Donnelly Kibbe.
Cindy Donnelly Kibbe has more than two decades of writing and editing experience. She has held careers in healthcare and journalism and was honored with several awards for reporting from state and regional press associations. Her personal writing gave her the most joy and challenges and as the self-described “Unsuccessful Quitter,” published her YA Fantasy novel after 20 years. www.ckdonnelly.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
I’m embarrassed to say, Star Wars probably had as much to do with my writing career as God. Since I was a kid, I’d riff on characters and stories I’d seen on TV or in the movies. I developed a myriad of different characters or different takes on the existing characters all set in the Star Wars universe. That movie led to other science fiction and fantasy movies, which led to other characters and stories. I thought I was so unique and original in this. I’m not. There’s a term for it: fanfiction.
I had so much fun with these forks on Star Wars stories, I tried my hand at writing a full-length novel set in the Star Wars universe. Close friends read it, and they both agreed my ideas were too good to be kept in a fanfic novel, which, would go nowhere. I needed to write something original. Damn them if they weren’t right.
Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When wasn’t the journey to becoming an author hard? I’ve faced everything: job lay-offs, loved ones dying, cross-country moves, bouts of pneumonia, and the recession. In short, real life is hard when you’re trying to keep up your mental stamina while writing a book.
But more specifically, a couple of incidents stand out.
Early in the development of TRINE RISING, I contracted with a very well-known screenplay writer and literary person to do a critique of the novel. I wasn’t the kind of writer that thinks every syllable is gold. I knew I had problems and needed help, and I told her so. The critique was heart-searingly negative. At one point, she remarked she hoped my protagonist would hurry up and die so she could stop reading. Three days of ugly-crying ensued, and I nearly quit my job as a journalist.
Years later, after completely redrafting TRINE RISING, I contracted with an editor whose writing blog I very much respected. She hated the book. She described one scene where my magically gifted characters use telekinesis to Mickey Mouse in Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of Disney’s Fantasia. Ouch.
The final straw was 100-some rejections from literary agents. It was Christmas 2019. I was shattered to my core that my life-long dream of being traditionally published was just not going to happen. I had two choices: quit or self-publish. I knew Mirana’s life story was just too important not to share, so I chose to self-publish. (Cue sunshine and birds chirping with a heavenly choir.) Once I made that choice, TRINE RISING surged forward to garner 5-star reviews.
As it turns out, I suck at quitting. It never quite sticks. Every day, I wanted to quit writing, quit my dream of publishing novels. Somehow, the next day I was back at it, plotting, writing, editing.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My faith in God was the saving grace. For others, the resolve to continue might be something else, but for me, it was my Catholic faith and my belief in God’s calling for me. The stirring in my heart and soul that my path toward becoming an author would not end in failure kept me going when it looked like all hope was gone. For me, God speaks in many ways but never more loudly than through my husband and true friends. Their encouragement was often the support I needed to continue to work on TRINE RISING.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Like I said, I’m an unsuccessful quitter. I could have given it all up that Christmas, but I just couldn’t. With deep prayer and lots of tears, I realized that moment was the beginning of a new chapter for me, a chapter where I’d self-publish. I began to pull together a team of professionals to handle various functions a publishing house would such as legal, editing, public relations, and art design. I taught myself everything from creating videos to social media advertising to book formatting. Step by tiny, baby step, TRINE RISING moved forward until it became a reality.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
1. Trust the small, still voice in your heart.
That’s God, intuition, Higher Power, Universe Juice — whatever you want to call it — that’s “rightness” speaking to you. Trust it. For me, it’s God. Deep in prayer and wondering why I had this fire in my soul to write when it seemed so very impossible, I became aware of the answer: “Do you think I put you on this path only to fail?”
2. You know the people who are good in your life. Trust them.
Is there anyone honestly who doesn’t know kale is better for you than a Big Mac? It’s the same with the people in your life. Listen to the good influences in your life. For me, it’s my husband and a select circle of close friends, many of whom share my faith. When I’m feeling lost, I reach out to them. To borrow from a famous book title, they are chicken soup for the soul.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail or cut loose what isn’t working.
This is the converse of Lesson #2. There are people in your life that leave you feeling drained and bad about yourself. Put some distance between you and them. If it’s possible or truly destructive, cut them out of your life. I had a marketing person that seemed like a perfect fit for what I needed to promote TRINE RISING. She took thousands of dollars from me and gave me canned advice from videos she created years ago, none of which were applicable to launching a book. I terminated the contract for “services already rendered” and never looked back.
4. Do what you love; that’s what you should be doing.
I love writing; I always have. When I write, I’m merely taking dictation for the movie in my head. Sometimes, the prose comes faster than I can type. Hours can go by, and I won’t have even noticed. That’s the kind of fire in the soul I’m talking about. Maybe for you it’s writing, too, or a computer app or Abuelita’s nacho cheese sauce. If the world slips away as you work on it, honor it. Your passion is your purpose.
5. Quit every day.
I wanted to quit working on TRINE RISING more times than I can count. Sometimes I sort of did, only to find myself back at it the next day. I could not work on my novel if I tried. My heart would be filled to bursting and I just had to write. I wanted to give this story to others so badly. There’s so much darkness in the world. I’m not trying to teach some huge moral truth in TRINE RISING. It’s for fun, your fun. It’s a time for you to get away from the problems around you and embark on a tale of adventure. Sure, it’s got high stakes, tension, and some grittiness, but in the end, there is light. That’s what makes a good story.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
The undying support of my husband Wayne kept me from descending into an abyss of self-loathing and despondency. There really isn’t one incident of his support that stands out but a lifetime of love. I met him at college when I was 19–and not a day of my life has passed without him by my side since that day.
Another person to whom I owe so very much is my PR rep Sherry Butler. No words can convey my gratitude toward her. When she said my book moved her like no book has in years, I was speechless. After so many professionals rejected TRINE RISING, here was a skilled professional who believed in the novel as much as I did. She has been a tireless bridge of love and support connecting me and TRINE RISING to folks I would have no way of reaching.
And, of course, God. I have a dedication in my book, a quote from the Gospel of Luke, commonly called Mary’s Canticle: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness…The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
This quote is deeply personal and was something I prayed years ago when I finished the draft that was to become the basis of the novel that folks are reading today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We are still in the early stages of launching TRINE RISING, but through it all, I’ve always tried to help and support other authors. I know how shattering a vicious critique can be; it’s debilitating. I’ve dedicated myself to making sure no writer that comes to me for advice goes through that.
Soon, I hope to reach others through a broader message of, well, grit. Winston Churchill said it best: “Never give in, never, never, never–never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” If something burns in your heart, in your soul that strongly, it is meant to be given to the world. That “something” is your purpose, and you have a duty to bring it to life and share it with the rest of us.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We will soon be finalizing Book 2 of The Kinderra Saga, TRINE FALLACY, followed by TRINE REVELATION, the third book. Both books are already completed. I’m currently outlining Book 4 as well as putting together workshops for writers and the public.
I hope they will show others how a project that virtually no one believed in but me refused to die, and not only is continuing but flourishing.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
The biggest roadblock on one’s journey toward success is self-doubt. Sometimes, we’re at a loss as to how to continue or even start. Other times, we just need a little handholding and support. Occasionally — and the most destructive — a negative sense of false modesty can get in the way as we wait to be begged to do “Our Thing.” You must have the fire in your soul for whatever that is, or no amount of support will help you bring it to fruition. If you don’t, that’s not Your Thing. Find something else that does light a fire in your soul.
Leaders of employees can best help their teams by doing more of what they’re already doing: being a safe sounding board and a resource-finder. Beyond that, it’s up to the employee.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think many folks aged 50 and older might think they’ve missed their opportunity to do or create Their Thing. Someday, I’d love to create a scholarship or some sort of financial support vehicle for first-time entrepreneurs aged 50 and over. These folks have so much untapped potential and experience. They are this country’s greatest resource, but everything from ageism to life’s demands, to years of lacking belief in oneself, can stymie great ideas.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You’ll never know unless you try.”
One of the scariest endeavors for me as I was building my author’s social media platform was just that — being out there. Me, on the world’s stage, as it were. Showing followers a bit of myself was terrifying because “what would people think?” What if I made a mistake, or — Heaven forbid! — a typo in a post?! Don’t be afraid to fail. We’re all human. Cut yourself some slack.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.