Friday, May 18, 2012

It's the one


 “Did you ever come to a fork in the road? What did you do?”

A few days ago this was a question asked by Betsy Lerner, writer, literary agent, wife and mother, on her blog; http://betsylerner.wordpress.com/,  a ‘must read’ for anyone who considers themselves a writer. I posted an answer that day, and a couple of comments, which were relevant but did not touch on one incident in my life which, when I think about it, or tell the story, sends shivers up my writer’s spine.

This is a true story. I mean really, it would not fly as fiction. No one would believe me and I would feel foolish coming up with the premise. So, here it is, for anyone who is interested, my fork in the road, ‘ah-ha’ moment, message from my mother and wink from God. And what did I do? I paid attention. How could I not?

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, house clean, laundry done, husband playing golf, time for a nap on the couch in my bedroom. I turned on the TV, nothing like a little Connecticut Public Television to lull me to sleep. Perfect, a special about the life and career of Mark Twain. I figured I’d be nodding off in two minutes. Problem - the program was interesting. I got into it.

Seems that after Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote Huckleberry Finn he set the story aside. Five years later, after a few trips up and down the Mississippi, he decided to revisit Huck. The rest is publishing history; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn became an iconic American classic.

When the TV program came to an end, (it was part one of a two-parter), I was disappointed. I really wanted to see part two. Scrolling the program line-up, not there, I checked on-line to see when it would air, no luck. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Since I had spent an hour watching TV during my fifteen minute power-nap, and was no longer in the mood to nod off, I was at a loss as to what to do with the rest of my afternoon?

I distinctly remember thinking, if Mark Twain could breathe life into a five year old manuscript he had set aside, maybe I could do the same with mine, not that my novel would be anywhere close to an iconic American classic. I mean, about the only thing I have in common with Twain is that we both lived in Connecticut.

But, I missed writing. Life and all its responsibilities had convinced me that writing was a selfish act; as if the actual process, separating me from family and friends, fed some sort of singular needy-dream. Back then, life was a time of making memories for my children. I wanted them to remember my presence with them, not apart, writing essays about them. But my novel, a story about a young woman embracing change, and brave enough to step forward and dance alone in the unknown, was a good one and the writing not bad. Many of the experiences I drew on were personal, perhaps too personal, (a pitfall for first time novelists), so submitting and being rejected, might hurt a little too much; reason enough to let it sleep.  Rejection is a skin-toughener for writers. My hide was thick and I longed to write again.

In my office, at the back of a bottom file drawer was my 80,000 word first attempt at women’s fiction. In the mood to write, and inspired by Twain, I opened the file drawer. Here’s where things got a little weird.

Lying flat across the tops of the files was a colorful folder. I knew what was in it, a collection of tear-sheets my mother had saved of all my published essays and articles. I found it among her things when I cleaned out her house after she died. Maybe I’ll read a few of my successes, I thought, to inspire me to work on my book. Sitting on the floor I opened the file.

The first piece in the folder was the entire front page of the commentary section of the Hartford Courant, a local daily newspaper. Usually my mother cut the articles out and dated them but not this time, the only time, she had saved the entire first page. Down the right side of the page was an article I had written eight years before, shortly after 9/11, regarding the suffering American economy. In the center, above the fold, was a picture of Mark Twain. Yes, Mark Twain. I gasped, I actually gasped. Down the left side of the page was an article outlining and reviewing the two part CPTV program about him I had just watched only minutes before.

There I was, sitting on the floor, forgetting to breathe and stunned by circumstance. The presence of my mother in the room was as real to me as the air I was forgetting to breath. Gasping again I touched the picture, the sign. What was I being told?

I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe in messages and that my mother was standing over me. Was she telling me to get back to writing, any writing, or was she telling me to, work on your book honey, it’s good enough, it’s the one?

“I hear you mom,” I said out loud, “I get your message.” I started to cry.

I’ve done numerous rewrites on that book, am very proud of my effort and still love the characters and the story. Everyone who has read it loves it and has told me, ‘it’s the one’. It's not my only work, there's much more to my writing list now, but that I can’t get anyone in publishing to read my first-fiction love is disappointing but not a surprise. I keep thinking that eventually, if I just keep at it, continue to query, and to research better choices, the right agent and the right publisher will get my mother’s message, or a wink from God, and make To Walk Among Strangers a path chosen at the fork in their road.

Or... maybe someday, after I am gone, one of my daughters will be sitting on the floor of my office going through my things, and she will be wondering about signs and messages. Perhaps she'll come upon a colorful folder filled with what moved me enough to write or my manuscript and she'll remember how long and hard I held onto my dream. I will be standing over her, whispering a message, read it honey, I’ll say, it’s the one, it’s the one.



           

3 comments:

Cooking on a Budget said...

The story is "the one". I speak of the novel, "To Walk Among Strangers." I have had the privilege of reading it and can attest that this is truly an engaging piece of work. Personally, I can not fathom why an editor/publisher has not picked it for publishing.

Three Kings Books said...

This was fantastic. Goose bumps all over the place.

I would recommend self-publishing and/or get a reading from me.

Another suggestion? Demand another sign about what you're meant to do!

Best, J

Virginia Llorca said...

Thanks for stopping by. You seem adorable--"I mean really."