The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Laura Warrell illustrates her journey in the publishing business

The power it takes to overcome every single rejection
Photo by Elyse Braun
Warrell’s talk was held at the newly renovated L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library.

The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library hosted the Chippewa Valley Book Festival from Wednesday, Oct. 11 to Monday, Oct. 16.

Laura Warrell, author of “Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm,” gave her talk entitled “A Writer’s Journey to Publication” on Saturday, Oct. 14. The talk centered around Warrell’s history as a writer and the struggles she faced throughout her journey in the publishing business.

Isa Small, Programming and Communications Services Manager, said that prior to hosting Warrell and the many other speakers hosted throughout the festival, a lot of work was put into ensuring the library was ready.

“This is the first time we’ve done an event where we were expecting this big of a crowd,” Small said. “We spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks coming up here to assess the space.”

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Small said that she hopes community members gain new perspectives and connections after attending.

“Anytime you can hear someone else’s story, there’s always something to benefit from,” Small said. “The biggest thing that makes my heart soar is the conversations that happen right before and right after.”

Laura Warrell shared one of those different stories with the community. Cindy Tate, a community member, said she came to the event as a writer herself and is grateful for Warrell’s lessons.

“I write poetry. I’ve never tried to get published,” Tate said. “It took her such a long time, it was really generous of her to help others.”

Warrell started her journey as a writer at age six with her first book, “The Little Cat.”

“I was little, I liked little things,” Warrell said.

Warrell said that through her writing, she was able to better understand herself.

“My life at times was sad, painful, beautiful, lonely,” Warrell said. “Writing is my way to try to understand that.”

As Warrell was graduating from college, she was in the end stages of completing her novel manuscript, “A Blue Room.” 

Warrell attempted to get in contact with an agent who liked and understood her work but received rejections. Throughout her talk, Warrell shared the importance of having thick skin and recognizing the critiques.

“There’s gotta be a guard rail around yourself. Sometimes it takes being beaten down for decades,” Warrell said. “I paid attention and I revised.”

Warrell faced upwards of 50 rejections from agents while trying to get published. After a long wait, though, her work finally paid off.

“Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm,” Warrell’s debut novel, was published in September of 2022.

The story centers around Circus Palmer, a renowned ladies’ man and trumpet player, and tells the tales of the women he has encountered.

Warrell said that she wanted to tell the story from a perspective not usually told in relationships: the woman’s.

“By flipping the script, not only are you letting that woman be a three-dimensional human being who’s more than just a fantasy for the man, for the reader there’s an understanding that there’s another side to this,” Warrell said.

Throughout her years facing rejections, Warrell said she recognized the challenges that marginalized communities face in the publishing business and has even written about it in essays entitled, “Writing While Black” and “Publishing While Black.”

“Publishing has been notorious for being managed by a community of people who are not very diverse,” Warrell said.

Warrell, in the hopes of making the publishing business more accessible, said there needs to be a more diverse group in charge.

“When you have a diverse group of people making decisions about what books are going to resonate, you’re going to have a diverse array of ways that a book can resonate,” Warrell said.

Warrell, throughout her challenges and triumphs, has always held onto her sense of being a writer and said that she now understands what it means to be one.

“I think a writer is someone who is able to observe and interpret with some objectivity and compassion, the complexity and depth and sort of chaos of the human condition and is able to put it into a document that others will be able to see some truth and meaning and understanding in,” Warrell said.

Braun can be found at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Elyse Braun
Elyse Braun, Chief Copy Editor

Elyse Braun is second-year journalism and psychology student. This is her second semester on The Spectator. If you can't find her she's either reading a book, getting coffee with friends or hanging out with her mom.

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