I was sitting in the children’s section of my local Barnes & Noble working on a picture book manuscript. Know the Market was the advice given at the latest conference. So there I was researching other books, ones actually published, when I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a woman doing her own research for a large publishing company and the manager of the children’s book department. They were talking about the lack of books for boys. 

I decided to chime in. “There is a real need for substantive, non-stereotypical books,” I said. What followed was a thoughtful conversation about the marketplace.

At the end of the conversation, I sheepishly added, “I’m actually a writer and working on some manuscripts for boys.” How shocking, she must have been thinking. But it was true and this happenstance encounter was magical for me. 

Writing is solitary work. It’s easy to get lost in the latest project and then after months of effort and sweat, question if your creation will ever see the light of day. A conversation, a good word, a glimmer of hope is: gold.

She gave me her information on a piece of scrap paper and said, “When you’re finished with what you’re working on, get in touch. I’d love to help if I can.”

I kept the paper in a bowl on my desk, along with pieces of sea glass and other inspirational items.

Many months later when I asked my husband to read the sixtieth version of one of the manuscripts, he said, “Just send it out. What are you waiting for?”

Just send it out. Just send it out? He made it sound so easy. 

I thought of the piece of paper, in the bowl. I wasn’t sure if the manuscript was ready but I was ready to send an e-mail. So I did. A couple of weeks later we, the woman from the large publishing company and I, met up for coffee. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect. But five minutes in, I knew exactly what I’d found. I was having coffee with a new friend. A mentor.

We talked about writing and mothering and where to “put the time.” But mostly we just talked. Halfway through our conversation, she said, “‘I’m going to tell you something I wish I’d learned earlier. You have to keep throwing arrows. Don’t waste time questioning yourself. Just keep throwing arrows.”

Keep throwing arrows. The advice from my new mentor was simple. And not unlike other advice I’d received over the years. The difference was, I heard it. And felt it. There was something about the sincerity in her eyes and the calm confidence in her voice. 

That’s the thing about working toward a deep down goal, it hurts. It is quite frankly easier to hear how difficult or unlikely success is than Keep Trying. Trying involves putting yourself out there, dangling the heart in open air, risking more failure, or worse disappointment. 

The sad reality is many of us give more time to other people’s dreams than our own. No one has ever had to tell me to Keep Throwing Arrows when it comes to my kids. As is well documented in this blog, I can be a little “pushy.”

And, I would never have survived in the world of fundraising if I had to be reminded to, Keep Asking. I have no problem raising money on others’ behalf, especially for a project I believe in.

But finding homes for my inner ramblings, daring to realize my publishing goals? The world is paved with writers. What makes me special? 

January is National Mentoring Month ( Yes, I thought the same thing when I saw it: Wow there really is a month for EVERYTHING.

But the truth is we all need mentors. It quite simply helps to have a caring, thoughtful person provide an encouraging nudge in the moments when we all feel less than special. 

So keep your eyes and ears open, and then return the favor. 

And above all: Keep Throwing Arrows.


  1. Holly, you captured the dilemma of when to submit your writing quite eloquently and it's clear you have what it takes to become a success. But talent isn't enough. Timing and connections are everything in this field. I hope your new mentor will be the one to open the right doors for you.

  2. Holly, this is great advice. I was just having a conversation with a colleague about how hard it is to to get academic articles published. However, we both agreed that half the battle was sending them out in the first place. She told me that a friend of hers had been advised by a mentor to make sure a paper is "good enough" and send it out quickly. It is a waste of time to try and make it the best paper ever as there will always be revisions anyway. Nothing gets published if you don't put it out there!

  3. Reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw: Princess holding a frog in her hand asks, "Just how many do I have to kiss?" Looking forward to getting an email from you one day soon that says RE: Bullseye!

  4. Right back at you! What is that saying? Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.