by Karina Bartow
Everyone’s heard the statement, “Life has its ups and downs”, but in my case, it’s been a bit more literal than in others’!
It’s not uncommon for parents to watch their toddler fall time after time on his or her adorable, wobbly journey to learning how to walk. My mom and dad, however, became more accustomed to it than most have to. Following my Cerebral Palsy diagnosis, I was put into physical therapy, in an effort to help my motor skills develop. From the age of one year to thirteen, my therapists strived to train me to stand, walk, and—because my body was a slow learner—even safely fall. Between the three, I had more than a few unsuccessful brawls with gravity!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I heard Chumbawamba’s hit “Tubthumping” that sang, “I get knocked down, but I get up again,” I jokingly adopted it as my theme song. It would become appropriate, not only to my struggle with balance but also in my attempts to become a published author. After hearing a children’s book author speak at my local library when I was nine, I knew that was the career I wanted, and I didn’t waste much time in trying to make it happen. I wrote a couple of children’s stories in the four years following and was brave enough to send them to two publishers. Both rejected me, and due to my young age, I didn’t pursue it any further…for the time being.
Throughout high school, I continued to excel in writing, and several of my friends and family started to nudge me in that direction. I resisted a bit, unsure of my talent and of my resilience in handling refusals. Plus, I didn’t want to do something “just because” it was nearly the only job I could physically do. Hence, I didn’t truly commit to it upon graduating, wanting to look into other opportunities that may have suited me just as well.
My creativity plagued me, though, pushing me to put the pen to paper—or nowadays, the keyboard to the word processor. Being in my late teens, I was now more interested in love stories, so I began one of my own the fall after I graduated. It went smoothly, until three months and only a few chapters later, my old-fashioned floppy disk “died”, and without a backup source, I lost it all, “knocked down” once more.
I eventually “got back up again” and restarted the novel. Despite being able to type with only one hand, I completed it in under two years and thereafter, summoned the courage to shop it, resolving not to give up this time. To my disbelief, the very first publisher I queried expressed interest in it, asking to review the full manuscript. The process was supposed to take a year, during which I was not to contact them to inquire how it was going. My hopes high, I decided not to approach any other companies with it, either. The one-year mark finally passed, and I waited another month before contacting them about it. My optimism came to a disappointing end, however, when they reported that my submission was nowhere to be found.
Nonetheless, the publisher suggested I try it again four months later when their new editing staff arrived. As I prepared to do so, I realized their guidelines had changed, with their minimum word count increasing 10,000 words. Suddenly 8,000 short, I went to work on it that summer. I finished right on time and sent out my sample with great expectations still, but was crushed a week later to discover they’d been bought out.
In spite of my utter frustration, I kept at my dream and continued shopping the story. I also continued to write, completing another love story and then a mystery. Titled Husband in Hiding, I felt a satisfaction with the latter that I didn’t with my first two, and I ended up focusing all my efforts on getting it published. For nearly two years, almost every response I received was a rejection, tallying up to more than fifty in all, until the spring of 2015. A small publisher in Vermont accepted it, with the intent of it being the first of an original series.
This used to be my ‘happily ever after’, but sadly, that isn’t the case anymore. Despite my success with Husband in Hiding, the company restructured in 2017, leading them to drop me. Gravity had caught up with me yet again, and there was more than one night when I went to bed not knowing how I’d bounce back. Being an author was my dream, though, so with some encouragement from loved ones, I set back out on the market with the love story I wrote when I first started my journey…with some major improvements, of course. I was floored when, yet again, a publisher, Vinspire Publishing, bit on it right away! Within weeks, I signed a contract with them for Forgetting My Way Back to You, which is set to be released this October.
While none of this has been easy, the resilience I had to find in overcoming my physical obstacles has propelled me to succeed in finding my career as well. In every challenge that comes my way, I try to bounce back stronger, even if it takes me a little while. After all, I have to live up to my theme song!
Karina Bartow lives in northern Ohio and has authored two published novels. Her first, Husband in Hiding, is available at her website and on Kindle, and Forgetting My Way Back to You will be released in fall, 2018. Though her Cerebral Palsy limits her to typing with only one hand, she writes with her whole heart.