It took Anita Bunkley roughly five years to write Emily, The Yellow Rose, her first novel. But after pushing the manuscript to major publishing houses for an additional three years, she wasn’t exactly swimming in prospects. Undeterred, she shelled out $10,000 to self-publish the book, a black historical tale set during the Texas Revolution. “The process was slow, cumbersome and very expensive,” says Bunkley, a former public school foreign language teacher. But her efforts paid off, and the book was released in 1989.
The following year, she approached the distributor for Houston area outlets of Waldenbooks, hoping to make Emily a presence in the store. “I was told it was company policy not to carry small-press books,” says Bunkley. Nonetheless, she tried for months to get the store to reconsider. But the distributor was adamant. “I was disappointed and hurt, and determined to show them they were wrong for turning me away.”
Despite her raging emotions, Bunkley decided to put her frustration to good use. “I encouraged all my friends to shop at Waldenbooks and inquire about my book.” Nearly a year later, the store called. “The demand for Emily became so great, they all but rewrote their policy to get my novel on the shelves.” Bunkley’s book is now carried by Waldenbooks and other major chains such as Barnes & Noble.
Getting attention from mainstream outlets is relatively effortless now for Bunkley, who has written five additional novels since Emily. She has recently released her seventh and latest book, Steppin’ Out With Attitude: Sister Sell Your Dream (HarperPerrenial, $12.50), a motivational book about her life experiences.
“You can let adversity pull you down, or you can use it to spur you on to great accomplishment,” says Barry Farber, author of Diamonds Under Pressure: Five Steps to Turning Adversity into Success (Berkeley Books, $13). Bunkley proved that bad situations can actually be good-if you have the right outlook. Here are some tips to help transform obstacles into opportunities:
- Think beyond the moment. “Getting upset won’t get you anywhere,” cautions Bunkley. Stay focused on your broader vision so you can remain free and open to spot any opportunities that may arise.
- Be prepared to switch gears. “You may try things that don’t work out,” but you can always regroup and try different approaches, says Farber. If nothing else, you’ll gain insights you’d never have gotten had you not tried.
- Learn your lesson. There’s something to be gained from every experience-even negative ones. “Failure teaches us unparalleled lessons that give us a chance to reassess and reevaluate our lives,” says Farber. Learning from your mistakes can be great building blocks to success.