Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 16, 2015

Did I Really Just Say No? – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with…

Did I REALLY Just Say NO to That???

As writers, we often find ourselves with more irons in the fire than we have hands. Once in a while, more irons strike up than we can handle, and we may find ourselves faced with a difficult choice. Do we actually say NO to a writing opportunity?

Recently, I found myself in a strangely unique situation.

I had just gotten a contract as a Description Writer for a furniture company. The money’s good, the work is interesting and it’s a fantastic creativity exercise. Basically I’m describing products in a way that makes people want to buy them. Remember what Elaine from Seinfeld did for a living? It’s similar to that. I enjoy it and it’s become a nice supplemental income for me. I’ve done it for a few companies, but this was a bigger deal and would make a great addition to that side of my resume. I was excited and it was going well.

My day-job had picked up (I also own my own business) and I was on the verge of landing a large customer I’d been after for years.

Then I get an email: Rosen Publishing, asking me to write a book for them. Similar to the Bee Book I did before, but directly for the publisher this time. Part of an educational series for middle schoolers.


(First of all, let me be clear: I’m not complaining. All of those things are wonderful blessings.)

But I sat staring at me email. Rosen Publishing. ROSEN Publishing!!! I’d sent them a resume to be one of their educational writers over a year ago. This was the first time I’d heard anything.

My instinct was to reply immediately, OF COURSE!!!! I WOULD DO ANYTHING TO WRITE FOR YOU!!!!

But something stopped me. I’m not sure what it was in that moment. I had already hit “reply” and was in the middle of typing a resounding, YES! response.

Thank goodness I had the experience of the Bee Book to draw from. I thought about the hours, the re-writes, the days and days and days spent on research. I took a closer look at the description. The word count was twice as long and the deadline was slightly shorter.

The writer-side of me screamed: NO PROBLEM! Just means you’ll be done sooner!!!!

Something still gave me hesitation. I started thinking about the holidays coming up and my other responsibilities, this new contracted writing position. Would I be able to do it all?

WHAT????!!!! Are you crazy? If Rosen Publishing asks you to write a book for them, you WRITE a book for them!!!!!

True. But, I’d certainly rather say no than not produce a quality product.

So I read back over the posts I wrote for this site. I’m certainly blessed to be able to look back over my own thoughts like that. It turned out to be an excellent source for me:

Successes and Hurdles: about my experience actually writing the book

A Heartfelt Thank You: My response to your encouragement from the above post

Work For Hire Journey: A Bee Book Update: My thoughts after the process was over. (well not OVER, the book is set to release in the spring. I’ll post again about it after that of course!)

My biggest suggestion in those final thoughts, was to be genuinely interested in the topic. To show how much my own advice has slipped my mind, I realized I’d been so excited I hadn’t even absorbed what the topic WAS. I went back and looked: The Mesolithic Area.


HEY!!! Early human civilization is INTERESTING!!!

While this is true, it’s not a topic I get particularly excited about. And some quick (Google) research showed that specifics may be hard to pin down. I took a deep breath.

Am I ACTUALLY thinking of saying no???

Turns out… I was. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d have to give up the new contract I was excited about, for an opportunity I was only excited about in THEORY.

It’d be amazing to be able to say I was published with Rosen Publishing. But I knew I would be stretching myself thin. A project like that would deserve and demand my full attention. That wasn’t something I was able to do.

I formulated a professional response saying I had current writing commitments that wouldn’t allow me to meet the deadlines. It sat there written and unsent for hours. Finally, I put the little mouse over the S-E-N-D, closed my eyes (literally) and clicked.

The big question: Ultimately, was it the “right” decision?

There is no “big answer”. Honestly, I’ll never know. But I do believe that sometimes, as writers, we HAVE to say no.

The quality of my writing is what’s most important to me. Not how many contracts I’ve signed. I owe that to myself, my pride, my customer and of course…

… my manuscripts themselves, are worth it!


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. THANK YOU!!! A few months ago I said ‘no’ to an AMAZING opportunity to be part of the regional SCBWI team. I wanted so bad to say, ‘yes, I can handle that too.’ But I knew in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t with my other commitments. Now, months later, a part of me wonders if I made the right decision. And a part of me knows I did. That’s why I needed this post.

    Because sometimes we have to say no. And sometimes that’s OK.


  2. That had to be one of the toughest emails to send. Perhaps they will counter with an extended deadline to fit your schedule. But even if they don’t, it was the smart thing to do. That had to be a really hard choice to make.


  3. 🙂 From: Writing and Illustrating To: Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 9:04 PM Subject: [New post] Did I Really Just Say No? – Erika Wassall #yiv5412904195 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5412904195 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5412904195 a.yiv5412904195primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5412904195 a.yiv5412904195primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5412904195 a.yiv5412904195primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5412904195 a.yiv5412904195primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5412904195 | Kathy Temean posted: “Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with…Did I REALLY Just Say NO to That???As writers, we often find ourselves with more irons in the fire than we have hands. Once in a while, more irons strike up than we can handle, and we may find oursel” | |


  4. Wow, thanks for your honesty and sharing your experience. What a hard decision, and how great that you could look back on your posts here to help you through the process – much like a personal journal. It’s a good lesson for all of us – with other endeavors too, not just writing.


  5. Did I Really Just Say No? – Erika Wassall
    Posted: 15 Dec 2015 09:04 PM PST

    Erika – you are “a writer, a farmer and a liver of life.”
    And now, as of this latest post, you are officially “a
    wise woman!” Your sage thoughts should be required
    reading for every writer and artist – regardless of back-
    ground and experience.

    Thank you!
    Victoria Harris


  6. It’s okay to say no…especially when our plate is full. Thanks so much for sharing this Erika!


  7. Wow. Perceptive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: