Mad in Pursuit Notebook

The writer's adventure cycle

2022: The Writer’s Adventure—Dreamland, Woke, and the Blinding Light


Dear one, Years ago, I spent months working on a master chart depicting an Artist’s Adventure. I mashed together my understanding of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey (descent and return) and a popularized view of Tantric Buddhism (ascending and descending chakras), and the old B-school Reflect-Understand-Plan-Do cycle (diagram below). Don't worry about the details. Just know I think about these things.

The Artist's Adventure Master Chart by SB Price

At the heart of it was the philosophy that a thoughtful, creative life is all about cycles. To everything there is a season [Ecclesiastes 3:1].

Every cycle has its demands, its turning points, its crises.

You—artist, novelist, or thought leader—struggle through a deeply personal ordeal to get your work done. Whether victorious or defeated, you emerge from this ordeal enlightened, with your treasure in hand. Woke!

This is your moment. For a book writer, you are published. You have a gift for the world and stand ready to share. You will be recognized and celebrated for your endurance and your brilliance, right?

Or not.

If you’re like me, your friends and family give you a cheer, then get on with their own demanding journeys.

And so, the second half of the cycle begins: going public, preaching your lesson, searching for your audience. It’s a whole new set of trials and revelations, but this time in the humiliating glare of day.

This was my 2022: the first half culminated two years of intense research and writing of my book Kitty’s People. In August, it was published. I began the excruciating public phase: marketing. I had spent two years finding and falling in love with Kitty’s people. Now the challenge was to find my own people and hope they fall in love with me.

Dreamland: time travel in the early 20th-century Midwest

On December 31, 2021, I sent my polished 140,000-word manuscript to an editor for a critique. Kitty’s People was my covid project, a deep dive into my grandmother’s history, rendered in the form of a novel. My mission for 2022 was to open myself to whatever had to be fixed before presenting my gift to the world.

Within six weeks, I had my manuscript back. The editor’s advice was clear: For such a long story to be accepted by the public, it had better be epic. It had better be lean and fast-moving.

Back into my dreamland I went. My challenges:

  • Stay grounded in the mission. Don't get tangled in side trips to interesting details. Kitty is the story. The book isn't an encyclopedia of how much I know.
  • Surrender to the process. I’m a slow writer, a thoughtful re-writer. The project needed to have enough time and attention to evaluate every scene, every sentence.
  • Be driven, resolute. This was the project of a lifetime. I can't be timid.
  • Accept criticism offered by my editor and other beta readers.It's an opportunity to see the story from different angles.
  • Find the right voice. Tighten and polish. Don’t settle for sloppy structure and lax sentences.
  • Open my mind to new insights into history and characters. Turn a bit of important action into a scene.
  • Be the story. Hang on to that place where the characters are fully alive within me and I become a citizen of their time and a place.


My descent back into Kitty’s world took six months of dogged work. In August, I emerged from this dreamworld, confident that no more revelations could be squeezed from the process. With my gift to the world in hand, it was time to share.

Blinding Light of Day

If writing is the painful journey through a silent nightscape, marketing is being thrown into the center of a riotous city—Bangkok—without a GPS, without even being able to read the road signs—harsh sunlight, crowded streets, blistering heat.

Here are my new challenges, which I've only just begun to take on:

  • Face the world. Time for realism. What do I have to offer the Tik-Tok world of 2022?
  • Get an accurate picture of the challenges of marketing and promoting. I scan this new territory..
  • Write smart, well-targeted marketing messages.
  • Reach out to helpers. There is now a wealth of webinars and coaching services available to indie publishers, though following all their advice feels like a full-time job. (See Notes section below.)
  • Trust the process. Stay focused. Don’t get disheartened.
  • Take the time to tune into my community, my potential fans. I began a newsletter, not only to continue my writing practice, but also to sense what my audience is interested in. I can get esoteric and self-involved.
  • Turn my "gift" into a "legend." Make Kitty a beloved character in American lore.In other words, sell the book. Work on this at least until I hear the call to a new adventure.

It’s tough. You know you have a gift to the world, an inspiration, a fragment of hope in a society full of despair, hard-won from the depth of times forgotten and places vanished. But to this society you are simply a nobody--a dreamer, an old fool.

It is tempting to return to the dreamworld and its quiet research, to hope that the book will stand on its own, will find its own audience simply by virtue of being good.

But then I think of Kitty, rolling up her sleeves to turn over-ripe peaches into cobbler. I think of Kitty, perpetually able to fend off despair with her open heart, her laughter, her singing. For Kitty, for my Kitty Mom, I can spend a few more months in the mean streets of book marketing.

Till next time... don't give up!



Luckily, in 2022, there are many services to assist the writer-publisher.

  • I used Kirkus, BookLife, and Blue Ink to obtain professional editorial reviews that I could post on Amazon and excerpt for promotions.
  • I read every blog and attended every webinar that promised a new tool to attract an audience.
  • With the help of a coach, I signed on to StoryOrigin and BookFunnel. These services offer a platform for sharing review copies of books and for building mailing lists through cross-promotions.
  • I started a newsletter and spent time trying to learn how to use it as a new literary form (as opposed to the long-winded sales pitch that so many are).
  • I cleaned up my website and all my social media so that people could connect with me easier. There are free business versions of common platforms from Facebook to Pinterest, though I have yet to test them for effective advertising.
  • I’m badgering my few enthusiastic readers for their Customer Ratings on Amazon, but failing that, I signed up for Pubby, a service where you read and review others' books to earn points, which can be spent on attracting reviewers to your own work. It is an ethical service, unlike many of the pay-for-a-5-star-review schemes out there.

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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.