Success can come in many forms, and everyone has a different key to reaching it. For some, it means getting out of bed before hitting snooze. Others don’t feel they’ve achieved success until they have changed the world. I recently had the opportunity to talk with local author and publisher Lynn Garthwaite about this topic, and she provided some great insight into her personal key to success: tenacity. Her story is a prime example of staying the course until you get what you desire.
Lynn has a warm personality that compliments her curiosity. For as long as she can remember, she has had an innate fondness for books, and this led to an advanced reading level at a young age and an appreciation for the art of storytelling. Her love of writing led her to dabble in journalism during high school, but her career in that realm was short lived—she felt the structures were too rigid and the topics being requested were largely uninteresting, which caused a stagnation in her desire to write.
However, Lynn’s spark for writing was renewed when she started at Carleton College in Northfield. There, she picked up a major in history along with a healthy dose of English, two topics that were fascinating for her. With that coursework she hoped to build a solid foundation for a growing desire to write screenplays. Over the next several years she wrote and wrote, submitting piece after piece to producers only to be turned down. Finally, a producer who loved her work replied: they enjoyed her writing style but wanted an action script instead of the romance she was used to writing. By the time she took some time to think on it and come to a decision, the producer had gone out of business.
By this point, a few years out of college, Lynn was on the verge of burnout—all this writing for very little return. It can take many, many submission attempts to land an offer, and those odds can be demoralizing. And even if you do get that offer, as Lynn notes, “Just because you’ve been published doesn’t mean you’ve made it.” She persevered, however, and ultimately reached a breakthrough when she tried writing a children’s book. Her first book, on the adventures of a kid by the name of Dirkle Smat, was a hit with her friend’s six-year-old, which encouraged Lynn to send it off to publishers for review. One accepted it, and several years and four more Dirkle books later, it would seem the public enjoys the idea too.
Lynn is still producing works fueled by curiosity. Last year she published a book about how the states got their shapes, and one about our “mysterious planet” is on deck. She is also the executive director of the nonprofit Books on Wings, which provides books to underserved and at-risk classrooms throughout Minnesota, and is working on a TV show in which she and a friend will explore unique places around the state.
Let’s not forget that tenacity can lead to more stories just like Lynn’s. There are many paths to creating your own career as an author or publisher these days: print-on-demand, Amazon, and ebooks have broken down the more formalized barriers of the past, and the Internet has made it easier than ever for anyone to access services like editing and design. As Lynn noted toward the end of our interview, “You have to create your own success.” That takes time, patience, and especially passion.