A Love Letter to My Readers
I was recently asked by a friend and fellow writer, “What is your process of writing? How did you get published?” This opened up a yawning cavern of the struggles and joys encompassing not only the publishing of Raising the Dead, but the 40 years that went into the publishing of my first book, and memoir, Writing in Wet Cement.
I was 30 years old and living in Sacramento, California. I will never forget the naivete of my 30-year-old self as I complained in my journal, “I thought by the time I was 30 I’d have published at least one book.”
The problems which would eventually end my marriage began appearing. One by one I would ignore, brush away and convince myself that all disagreements in my marriage were my fault. I wrote in my journals, as I had done since the age of eleven. Thank goodness I did so, for those words of joy, sorrow, perplexity, discovery and anger eventually became the basis for Writing in Wet Cement. It was a difficult book to write, akin to rising to the mountain tops of joy to crashing into the depths of misery as I relived all those years. Journal entries attest that I crawled over the hot coals of pain to get to the other side, joy and a new life.
The truth is, I could never have written a memoir, or any book, at that time in my life. I had only begun living, discovering myself as a mother. I was learning independence from my children and friends. In 1979 I did not have the perspective that the next 40 years would provide.
Writing Raising the Dead was a far different experience. Instead of sobbing through some chapters as I had in Writing in Wet Cement there were many moments in Raising the Dead when I giggled and laughed over the antics of the characters I was having so much fun inventing.
Raising the Dead is the journey of a naive young woman, Emeline, marooned in grief after the death of her parents. She is a bride who moved from her beloved childhood home in the California Delta, Little Holland City, with all its memories, scents and sounds. She finds herself in a completely unfamiliar world in a small rural community in the Virginia hills. Emeline is estranged from all she knew and loved, except her new husband, Randy. She feels buried, dead, along with her beloved parents who reside in the Little Holland cemetery on the California Delta. How Emeline evolves into a strong young woman through the help of friends, both living and dead, is what Raising the Dead is about. The lessons learned, the pathways to her new life and her growth to maturity fill these pages. It is a story every person can relate to in your own trials of life. It is a story of enduring love.
For me, writing is a lonely endeavor. My process is a painful, fearful, enterprise. I sit in a room of my own, reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. I scribble on a legal pad. I write and write and write. I concoct endless notes. My Thesaurus becomes worn, pages thin with overuse. I am alone, but not. My characters, my story, are struggling into existence from the depths of my imagination. They populate my dreams and my waking hours. They interrupt me while I’m shopping or having a random conversation with a stranger. They erupt from my past. Every word I write, as with all writers, is filtered through my experiences, history, memories, imagination and people. You can’t escape your own life, nor would you want to. My being, heart and soul are etched onto each page. Friends from the past, those still with me today and others who have left this world, people my pages. Finally, in this writing process, I realize I am DONE. Knowing when to stop writing is the most difficult task. I take a deep breath and dive into editing, rarely coming up for air.
I walk a tightrope of my words. The black cavernous hole of unknown readers lies beneath me. Will I fall into oblivion or make it to the other side of this tightrope and into the warm embrace of my readers? Will I fail or succeed?
Tim, my faithful final editor, joined in the process and provided perfect insights and suggestions which changed Raising the Dead, into a fuller, more rounded read.
After all the hard work, the spewing of my innermost thoughts, the endless editing, I ingratiate myself to publishers and agents through query letters.
Querying, pitching your story to an editor or publisher as the best thing ever read is a difficult process. How do you thread just the right “hook” to snare a publisher?
I queried over 50 publishers pitching Writing in Wet Cement before all my rejections finally culminated in that priceless moment, an offer of a contract! The thrill is indescribable. I was crazy with joy.
I queried over 25 publishers in my beseeching efforts to publish Raising the Dead. My first publisher, Austin Macauley came through with an offer. I was on my way!
This is my love letter to my readers. Through your connection to my stories, my books, my Food for Thought blogs, you have given me validation. You bring me from the darkness of my doubts into the joy of holding my published book in my hand. You breathe life into my vision and imagination. I often say writers and readers cannot exist without one another. This has never been more true.
Thank you all for connecting to me through my words, not only for your support, but for raising this writer into life.