After years of heavy sighs and longing looks, I’ve finally managed to sit on a writers’ success panel. The wonderful CYA Conference people invited me to present a talk to other writers about how my experience with CYA helped lead to my publishing success.


I was delighted to take part – it was a dream come true! But it also made me think about what it actually means to be a success. I was listening to my fellow panel members. All with different stories and different paths, and all undeniably successful.

It made me ask the ultimate question – do I consider myself a success? The answer was typically twisted. Yes and no. Yes, because I reached my goal. And no, because now I have even more goals to fulfill. I don’t want this to be my only kids’ novel. I’ve had a taste of fiction writing and I want some more.

I found it interesting to hear Wendy Orr, author of Nim’s Island and fellow conference presenter, talk about her own experiences. She said that with each success, she found holding back her inner critic increasingly difficult. It sounds odd, but I totally get it. Maybe there’s never a stage when writers think “this is it, I’ve succeeded in everything I’ve ever wanted to do”. The more we do, the more we want to do and the better we write, the better we want to write.

at conference

Mike the Spike on sale at the CYA Conference

But what if this is it for me? What if Mike the Spike is a one-off? Does it negate the success I’ve had so far? Of course it doesn’t, but before the conference I knew I’d consider myself a failure if I couldn’t follow on. I guess that’s what keeps driving me. Maybe other writers feel the same, I’m curious to know!

But the conference got me thinking. If you’re happy with what you’re doing, you’re a success. If you keep pursuing your goals, you’re a success. The only time I as a writer I can say I failed is if I ever give up. If I let that pesky inner critic get the better of me. And thanks to the support I encountered at the conference, I know I’m not going to let that happen.





10 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a success?

  1. Is success self-satisfaction, vanity tickled, or the admiration of others, affirming the need for vanity?

    1. Stella says:

      A bit of vanity doesn’t hurt 😉

  2. Not to say that you’re vain just expressing where my mind went in response to your thought provoking blog.

  3. Dimity Powell says:

    You said it Stella. Well put. We are all successes if we allow ourselves to be. Heartfelt congratulations to you again for all you have achieved thus far and for what is still to come. 🙂

    1. Stella says:

      Thanks Dimity. It means a lot to me!

  4. Hey Stella

    I so hear you on your one fiction book – and wanting more books on the shelf. Its a writes syndrome, always wanting more. Its normal and it gives you that spark and determination to want to put more of your own books, spine to spine on that bookshelf and it drives you along. Never lose that – its what got you across the fiction line in the first place!

    To answer your question – yes – there will be more fiction books from you – of that I am sure! But remember that you are not in control of the timing that they will come, and you can’t beat yourself up on the length between contracts! You could have a heap one after another – or it could be a few years, depending on you, your writing, your submission process and who is buying – not always within your control….

    It is as you say – to chuck in the towel, would be failure – but if you are still writing, even if no one ever reads it – you are a success because you didn’t giving up!

    Keep dreaming, keep writing!

    CYA later!

    1. Stella says:

      Thanks Tina. It’s reassuring to know other writers feel the same. I tend to be hard on myself, and it’s good to keep in mind I can’t control the timing. I’ll keep trying, though. The CYA Conference has helped so many writers – myself included – deal with their inner critics, and I can’t thank you all enough!

  5. I like your description of success. You’ve achieved an important goal with the publication of this new novel and you had already tasted success before. What matters is to get somewhere and then get better while enjoying the journey. I really like your approach about it. And the T-shirt too!

    1. Stella says:

      You’re right, Evelyne, enjoying the journey is important. It’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes! It’s good to be reminded 🙂

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