Friday, March 25, 2011

A Little Cotton Candy for the Soul

These last two nights I could have been the poster child for that common, yet rarely talked about affliction called "new author syndrome," an almost painful condition that affects most authors at one time or another in their career. The symptoms range in severity, but are always the same. You may recognize some of these symptoms in yourself: incessant checking of e-mails, stalking writer's sites like Publishers Marketplace and AbsoluteWrite, and for the worst of the worst–daydreaming away the hours while that mountain of laundry grows bigger than Mount Sinai in the corner.

I never really fully understood the agony nor the angst that my published author friends would try to explain. Only now, as a writer on the brink of getting published, do I finally get what they were saying. Now I understand just how easy it is for a writer to fall into the trap of obsessing over that "first" novel.

After all, you've carried this bundle of work with you for many long months, sometimes years and then, like an expectant mother about to give birth, finally comes the big moment you've been waiting for–your "Book" is about to be born! You push and strain until, finally, out pops your beloved little novel–all pink, wrinkled and ugly, but (you give a big sigh) all ten toes are seemingly intact. You then set about the arduous task of investing the long hard hours it will take to polish your little darling into something really, really great. And then, just when you dare hope it might sprout wings and fly, in walks the perfect publisher who sweeps your novel right off its feet! It's every mother's...errr, I mean writer's dream. And it's the way things ought to be. It should be easy, right? Don't get me wrong. It's every bit wonderful, but easy? Never.

Be it for love, a book deal, a waiting child–let's hope not a kidney–the waiting is never easy. But, we all must do it. My best advice? Try to stay busy, live in the moment and enjoy the journey, and should the waiting get tough–a little cotton candy for the soul never hurts!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Making of a Novel...

Although my first love has always been writing fiction, a couple of years ago, I set out to write a memoir about my experience with adoption and raising kids with HIV. About half-way into it, I realized that I just wasn't ready–my family and our story was still growing, still evolving and far from complete. I decided to take it off the burner (so to speak) and I packed it away in a desk drawer where it will no doubt stay for at least the next few years. The same week that I packed away the memoir, my husband and I made a trip across the bridge into Madison to attend an arts festival. While we were sitting on a grassy bank looking out over the river, a story began to take hold of me; a story about a young woman I didn't know yet, but who, over the course of a year would become a friend and character I won't soon forget. When we returned home from Madison, I immediately sat down at the keyboard and began to craft the outline for a novel that I titled The Silence of Mercy Bleu.

I love the freedom of fiction, the freedom to create characters and story out of thin air, and because I was writing about a subject that I'm so passionate about, it didn't take long for the words to fill the page. What began as just an idea, soon grew into a compelling story–a story about secrets, second chances and strength through adversity as told through the eyes of Mercy Bleu, a young HIV positive mom-to-be.

Once the first draft was finished, I immediately started in on the edits. I'd work each page, over and over and over again, until "Mercy Bleu's" story began to unfold. It wasn't finished yet, when I came across the William Faulkner "Novel-in-Progress" Contest. I entered my novel and low and behold it was chosen as one of the semi-finalists! That was the kick that really got the ball rolling. And roll it did.

I'd been working on my novel, day in and day out, for over a year at this point and I still wasn't sure if it was ready, but I had to at least try. I began pitching my novel to a few "big city" agents. Months passed. There were some encouraging words, but no takers. I was heartbroken, but I didn't give up. I just couldn't. I knew that if I could just get someone to actually read it, Mercy would soon be on her way. I re-worked the pitch, crossed my fingers, and sent out 10 more queries. It worked! Within a month, I received 7 requests for the full manuscript...and two rock solid offers of representation. I chose wisely. I knew that my agent, Jeanie Pantelakis, would be the perfect champion for my novel. Her sensibility and insight has been invaluable these last months.

We are now out on "submission," which is the process of pitching publishers and waiting for them to request a read. This could take days or it could take months. I honestly have no idea, but whatever happens, you know I'll certainly be posting it all right here for all those interested.

One thing I do know for sure is that I love this story and am ever so eager to share it with readers. This novel tackles some difficult issues and pushes the envelope (in more ways than one) and don't you just love when a book does exactly that?