Every journey starts with a dream.
My last blog piece focused on endings. This one is about beginnings, specifically the beginning of a journey that really started many years ago and has just gotten it’s wings. ELJ Publications will publish my novel, Invincible Summers, in May 2016. I found out Sunday morning and have been walking around in a daze ever since.
I wrote the stories in Invincible Summers over the course of several years. Professionally, I was a journalist and didn’t come to fiction writing (outside of creative writing classes in college) until my 40s. It has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to write a book. I thought books were magical. Still do. My mother has spent my entire life telling me to “put that in your book” when something strange, sad, or completely wonderful has happened to anyone in our family. Gratefully, I have had a treasure trove of screwy behavior to lift from. Thank God, or the alignment of the planets, for wacky bloodlines and the occasional mental breakdown. The writing well, so to speak, will never run dry.
So now I embark on the yellow brick road to publication. This is the golden hour for any writer, since up to this point you’ve been sitting alone in a room writing and rewriting and rewriting then sending it out into the world only to have the gatekeepers slam the iron bars of rejection in your face time and time again. All the while, the Writer Elf on the Shelf glaring down at you with his whiny silent voice, Oh, Robin, you suck. Stop trying. Give it up. Who cares what you have to say. Take up knitting, or robbing banks, something you might be good at.
The older I get the more unrealized dreams seem the hardest pills to swallow. Writers hold their desires close to the heart. Validation in our field is usually reserved to those published. I never called myself a writer until my short stories started getting picked up by literary journals. The burning desire to have our work recognized, commented on, published—that almighty acknowledgment of fraternity—yes, I’m embarrassed to say, the whole sorry saga took up a big chunk of years with Sylvia Plath’s lament, “Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing,” on a sound loop in my head.
And then, I didn’t care. Why was I writing anyway? For someone else’s approval? I focused more on the page. On what I had control over. The story took up my waking and dreaming hours. How could I make it better? I was a lot happier for it. A lot saner. I let the bullshit go and allowed the writing to be its own reward. The Writer Elf finally silenced so I could hear my own voice. And in the end, that’s the only one that counts.
But I digress, again.
Back to the fun part of all of this. The golden hour. Galleys to proof, a cover to select, the maze of advice from those debut novelists who have come before me. I’m one of the lucky writers that gets to experience all of this. It feels like pure joy. It feels like a lifetime ago I typed the first paragraph in the first story/chapter I wrote in Invincible Summers:
I hadn’t seen Big Becca Leonard in weeks. Not that I thought of her all that much, but suddenly there she was, bigger than ever, like a cartoon figure come to life, banging on our screen door.
Kind of like the e-mail I received Sunday morning, out of the blue, letting me know my book had finally found a home.