Some of you have given up on me. You’ve quit asking “How’s the writing going?” You’ve even stopped asking, “Are you still writing?” Honestly, I don’t blame you.
I gave up my law practice in 2001. At the turn of the century. Fourteen years ago. Fourteen years. In that time, I’ve published a lot. A lot. You can read all about it on my Achievements page if you want. I’ve also won awards. A lot of awards. You can read about that on the same page.
I have not published a novel.
When I began my writing career, I thought this was the trajectory. Hallelujah—you’re getting short stories published. And essays. Winning awards. Getting your first book published. Now you can impress an agent with your resume. Have a major house publish your novel.
But when I got involved with writing novels, I began serpentining. I wrote a novel. And another. And another. That kept up for five novels. I began sending them to an editor. She gave me feedback. I sent her another novel, and revised a different novel while she was working on her review. Or wrote a new novel. Which I then sent to her for review. I have now written seven novels; she has reviewed five.
This is not a straight line trajectory.
I felt this was the route for me.
Today, the editor sent me her Reader’s Report on my latest submission. Usually, she chitchats in the cover letter and gives a synopsis of her reaction to the novel. This time, she basically said, I’ll let the Reader’s Report speak for itself. I thought, well, she must really hate it. She wants to keep her negative feedback in the professional realm of the Reader’s Report.
I couldn’t blame her. I’d taken a real risk with this novel. It features Mary the mother of Jesus and, yes, Jesus too—back on earth to deal with the evil of a new, supercharged private prison. Plus, structurally, I’d played around. Offered stand-alone chapters that asked the reader to hang in with me—time would explain them. Religious irreverence, political bomb shells, literary devices—what’s not to hate?
Her first sentence: “Cutting to the chase: I think this is your best manuscript. Hands down.”
Here’s the point: you have to follow your own process. Even if it is contrary to everything you’ve been taught. Even if you can’t find anyone else who follows that process. Not your published author heroes. Not your writer friends. Even if it’s so time-consuming everyone starts asking, Are you still writing?
Do what feels right to you. It may work out. It may not. But at least you have done everything that felt right to you to succeed.
And you know what? You just might do it.
Hip rehab, yes. But obsession in writing a new novel too. That’s why I’ve been so absent—the combination of these two life facts have been deadly to blogging, for which I apologize. BTW, I’ve missed being here. 🙂
Here’s my latest:
* The University of North Carolina was eliminated from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Sooooooo, I won’t be singing this year. When UNC wins the NCAA, I fling open my front door and sing at the top of my lungs, “I’m a tar heel born, I’m a tar heel bred . . . ” The neighbors are currently breathing a sigh of relief.
* The dog and I are easing back into relationship, something that pretty much died when she absolutely could not jump on my new hip and I could not take her for walks. Our new relationship involves a lot of stretching out in bed together.
* I’m making thumb prayers, to be put in your pocket and rubbed with your thumb when you need a reminder of God. Here’s a pic of a few:
* A random stranger on the internet sent me a message that, in the opening sentence, contained the phrase, “and I think you’re brilliant.” This has tickled me to no end. I Googled her, to make sure it wasn’t a sham. She’s the real deal. And she’s been reading my work and thinks I’m brilliant. 🙂
* I have kept up my Lenten discipline of having a God sighting each day and sharing it on Facebook. Here are a few:
I Saw God Today
when I opened my eyes this morning and realized I live in a wonderland—the reaching branches of the cottonwood, the glint of water in the harbor, the blue sky peeking through. My unease at returning to Memphis and the “grind” of daily living evaporated. This is what I see when I wake up. I live in a wonderland. #Lent2015
I Saw God Today
in the faces of cousins and cousins once removed and leap cousins and cousins so distant I don’t know how they’re my cousin: the never-ending circle of life and love #Lent2015
I Saw God Today
in this hand soap. HAND soap, shaped like a hand. I can’t remember who gave this to me. Was it you, my sister? Or you, my cousin? Someone who knew me well enough to know I would adore it. And where is God in this? Well, God—the creator of laughter—loves puns too. #Lent2015
* I’m going to write a “How to Write in Community” pamphlet to be distributed to anyone and everyone who is interested in starting a writing group in a homeless shelter, women’s shelter, prison group, cancer support group, divorce group, etc. It’ll be simple. “Get someone to donate a packet of notebook paper, lined.” “Secure pencils and pens.” “Expect writers to fall asleep. Expect writers to arrive late. Expect absences because writers are in the hospital or at chemo or in drug rehab or jail or at the Social Security Office or a job interview or at the lawyer’s office or in trial or they’ve moved to a new part of the city and can’t make the trip to writing group. Everyone’s going through something. Life takes precedence.” That type of thing.
Oh. And the new novel? It’s a mystery set along the Wolf River Harbor where I live. The hero, a scion of a Arkansas plantation family and formerly homeless, investigates the murder of a real-estate developer who wanted to improve the harbor for the benefit of the poor neighborhood. Our man Coot is also trying to come to terms with a long-ago murder that occurred when Mud Island was still a wild place of squatters living on floating oil-drum homes. Here’s the harbor from my front door during a recent flood:
Thanks for hanging in there during my absence. I appreciate you.
Graffiti. A bare tree. My dog’s pink tongue. This is where I’m seeing God these days.
My Lenten discipline this year for the forty days preceding Easter is to see God every day and share my sightings on my Facebook author page. I’ve had many, varied Lenten disciplines over the years. During my childhood, mostly no sweets. As an adult, often no alcohol; easier, now, for me to give up than sweets. 🙂 Last year, we did vegan for three days a week. By the end of the first week the practice had knocked me off my I-don’t-eat-much-red-meat-so-I’m righteous pedestal. I HATED it. But I learned how very much I depended on animals to stay alive. This Lent, I wanted my practice to force me to be with God.
I Saw God Today in the graffitied encouragement on the warehouse loading dock when, after a grueling ( 🙂 ) physical therapy session, I plopped into the chair in NOCCA’s new cafe and glanced out the window: #Lent2015
My sightings of God are not going to be yours. For the most part, they don’t take place in church (particularly when I’m recovering from a hip replacement and not going to church.) It has dawned on me that when I finish Lent, if you follow my postings, you are going to know what I believe about God. This can be a scary thing.
I Saw God Today when Evangeline’s pink tongue poked from her mouth and licked my thumb. We love our pets whole-heartedly, knowing full well their time on this earth is briefer than ours and we are sure to mourn their passing. God is in the courage of that love. #Lent2015
You will have seen my underlying melancholy.
I Saw God Today
in the shadow of a parked car, the outline crisply defined, appearing in the parking lot only because the sun chose to shine. “Do not rue the shadow; it means the sun shines nearby.” #Lent2015
You will see where I believe the Spirit to reside.
I Saw God Today in the stark beauty of this tree, its bare white limbs soaring in a city that celebrates its live oaks #Lent2015
You will see clearly how much I love my husband.
I Saw God Today in my husband’s hands as he pressed into place the covering to protect my incision. “Let’s get out all your bubbles,” he said, gently checking his work. The covering crackled. His palms smoothed, done. #Lent2015
But as you click on Like depending on the content of the post, I will see what resonates with your Spirit too. I’ve already discovered that, for most folks, it’s more likable to see God in the light rather than the dark. I am trying not to get sidetracked by reader’s reactions but to swim forward based on my own watery, blurred sightings. Each day I wonder, will I see God today? I can’t think ahead, can’t plan, cannot fake it. I must wait for that moment when the air coalesces and a frisson arrives, and I know: that’s God.
Now you may think I’m a tad touched. So be it. No one searching for God in this world is gonna be altogether sane.
I Saw God Today in the corona of Mary. She traveled with me to Nazareth where she was sprinkled with water from the well. I rubbed her image this morning and the oil from my thumb polished her golden rays. Why did I see God in Mary? Because I missed her and went looking for her. #Lent2015