After giving up on writing for years, NaNoWriMo gave me the necessary push to make an effort again. The first few years--2004, 2005, 2006, 2007--I only wrote in November, and I eventually realized that writing one month out of the year wasn't good enough, not if I wanted to make a real go of it.
Around this time, I also found the NanoLJers group on LiveJournal. The moderator, Rhonda Parrish, had links back to her own publication--Niteblade Magazine. I read through an issue and was awed by the content and that every story was illustrated. I thought to myself, "I wish I was good enough to be published there."
I was just a baby writer then, working on short stories for the first time, and dealing with rejection for the first time. And not very well, I might add. One rejection left me a crying, depressed mess for three solid days (including my birthday). Yeah, I was pretty pathetic. I considered giving up on writing completely.
Instead, I kept on writing. I worked on my novel. I worked on my short stories. I was an active participant on NanoLJers and also began to follow and comment Rhonda's personal journal. I kept reading Niteblade and various other publications. I had a few acceptances. After a year of making conscious efforts to improve my writing, I took a big risk. I submitted to Niteblade.
I was rather sneaky about it, though. Rhonda only knew me by my LiveJournal name, celestialgldfsh. In my cover letter, I didn't mention that we knew each other. I figured that if she rejected my story, I was sparing myself some awkward embarrassment.
Instead, she enthusiastically accepted that story, "The Pacifier," and two more stories involving the same characters. Later that year, Niteblade published the trilogy in one volume and they were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Looking back, it still boggles my mind to see what a leap occurred in that one year.
Niteblade Magazine was an important step for me, and one I'm still proud of. That initial acceptance from Rhonda--one of the very first I received--made me feel like I might have a chance at this writing thing.
Some forty publications later, I'm represented by an agent, a full member of the SFWA, and still getting rejected on a regular basis but no longer crying for days (usually).
This whole writing journey began with reading Niteblade and thinking, "I wish..."