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YES! I have a book deal for both of my completed historical novels! YES, they will appear in hardcover, paperback, e-book and as audiobooks! Yes, I am absolutely pants-wettingly beside myself.
Yes, there is validation, and my pants would be on fire if I didn’t admit that. There’s some money, which is also really sweet, but what I’m feeling the most right now is GRATITUDE.
I’ve had fabulous writing teachers, mentors, and MFA advisors. I had a great cohort (go, Winter, 2018!) in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I first read my work at Connie May Fowler’s fabulous VCFA Novel Retreat. I had a wonderful writing group at WriterHouse, here in Charlottesville, Virginia. My family is supportive and even though they don’t really understand what being a writer is, they support my ambition and dreams. My agent, Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group worked hard to put the deal together and I’m thrilled to be working with the folks at Blackstone Publishing. I’m also grateful for the time I spent at Hawthornden Castle this March and April.
It’s an ongoing journey—okay, sometimes it’s been a slog. Along the way, there have been moments of euphoria and tears of bitter disappointment, chasms of self-doubt, nail-biting anxiety, and many, many hours staring at my laptop screen (or into the refrigerator, when I got stuck). I have to confess that there have, and will be, envy and jealousy of talented (younger, prettier) writers whose gorgeous prose or poetry seems effortless, those who already have novels in the world. There’s always someone higher up the ladder, right?
Along the way, I’ve been trying to stay on an even keel.
For me, this requires wine, solitude, wine, long walks, yoga, wine, occasional Ativan, wine, compulsive knitting in ridiculously complex patterns, and often, praying, especially in the dark times, for grace. Because grace, I think, is the most valuable tool available to us humans to navigate both highs and lows. Grace allows us to accept what feels unfair or unkind. Grace helps us to wait with patience. It asks our higher power of choice not to help us get what we want, but to help us move through the process with self-compassion and acceptance of things that don’t seem to make sense. Sometimes, grace gives us clarity, if not of a specific situation, then of our unique position within that situation. Grace reminds us to pay it forward when we can.
I don’t know what’s ahead in this writing journey. Needless to say, there will probably be more lows and hopefully, more highs. To be sure, there will be a whole lot of shameless self-promotion in my future, and more staring at the laptop screen. I’m just starting a third novel now, set in the early 1950s.
Here’s just a little bit about my two upcoming books, but I don’t want to give away the plots. Note- it’s possible that titles will change before publication.
THE THIN END OF THE WEDGE
The title comes from a British saying I first read in Nancy Mitford’s fabulous 1945 novel, The Pursuit of Love. As proclaimed by Uncle Matthew Radlett, “the thin end of the wedge” denotes a seemingly insignificant event or action certain to lead to catastrophe and ruin.
This novel began in a Fiction class I took five years ago at Mary Baldwin University. My teacher was Sarah Kennedy, a fine poet and the author of THE CROSS AND CROWN series of historical novels. Sarah told us to start a novel. So I did. Then I enrolled in a program at Queen’s University in Charlotte, N.C., called One Book, where I was lucky enough to be mentored by Barbara Jones of Henry Holt &Co. After that, I kept working on this manuscript in the Novel in a Year class at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, VA., taught by the fabulous novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff.
I set the story in 1924, at the old farmhouse where I live in rural Virginia. The inspiration for the main character, May Marshall, came from this shard of a porcelain doll’s face I found in the dirt outside the house.
I found myself wondering whose doll it might have been and what the little girl’s life had been like here, at Keswick Farm. I tried to imagine what this place was like when that girl was small, and I decided that the 1920s would be an interesting time to write about.
Certainly, the twenties were roaring here in Albemarle County, Virginia. During Prohibition, Franklin County, southwest of Albemarle, was called “the moonshine capital of the world.” Locally, according to John Hammond Moore’s history, Albemarle—Jefferson’s County, 1727-1976, local bootlegger Bose Shifflett, operating out of Bacon Hollow, was known as “King of the Blue Ridge.” Now, you can’t make this stuff up, so of course, Bose had to have a cameo in the novel.
In future posts, I’ll write more about the research and inspiration for this novel.
IN ALL GOOD FAITH (working title)
In 2017, this manuscript was named a semi-finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition (Novel-in-progress category), was a finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards, and it won second place in the Novel Excerpt category of the Seven Hills Literary Contest. An excerpt was published in the Seven Hills Review.
This novel is what’s called in the publishing industry a “stand-alone sequel,” which means that you could read it without having read my first book and it should make sense. However, some of the characters from THE THIN END OF THE WEDGE make another appearance. The plot is a dual narrative, telling parallel stories with themes of living with a disability, questioning faith in times of adversity, and two women’s unlikely success during the Great Depression. I’ll be writing more about this one in later posts, but the plot centers around events of the summer of 1932. In the spring of that year, a grassroots uprising began in Oregon when eight American veterans of World War I started a cross-country protest march to petition Herbert Hoover to pay their war bonuses early (they were slated to be paid in 1945). By the time the men reached Washington D.C. they had picked up support and 17,000 men had assembled from all across the country to join the March, many with their families in tow. They camped out along the rivers and around the Capitol, in rough shacks and tents and sometimes in partially demolished office buildings. In a terrific publicity fail for Herbert, the term “Hooverville” was coined for the encampments that populated D.C. and continued to spring up in cities across the country throughout the Depression. After the Bonus Bill was defeated in late July, President Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to lead troops in tear gassing the bonus marchers out of the camps.
More later, as we lead up to publication! Meanwhile, I hope you’ll check out my new author Facebook page.
Thanks for stopping by.