So this week I am turning 30! EEEKKKKK. That’s a big one. Am I stressing over it? Just a bit, but not because of the number per se. When people turn 30, I think they begin to assess their lives and start contemplating all the things they thought would happen by the time they reached the landmark. I have been.
When I first started writing my novel, I desperately wanted to be one of those 20 something authors who the world marvels at. Young and talented and ready to take on everyone and everything. I used to look at Christopher Rice and think, “He’s so young – I want that too.” (Chris was only 22 when his first novel A Density of Souls was published by Talk Miramax.) He also happened to be gay. I met Chris once during his first book signing in NY. It was really great to talk with him because I aspired to be like him. But of course, that didn’t really happen. I was committed to writing my novel. In the early days I would sit for hours at my brother word processor (yes, I know) and write all day long, everyday. I had a fever in me, a conflagration, baby that’s what. I was so inspired by Jackie Susanne, Grace Metalious and Bret Easton Ellis (who I’ve also meet). I read tons and tons of books and I responded to many, both personally and creatively. I was sure that within a year or so I would have my first finished novel and it would be a huge hit. I think it could have happened that way too. I really do. But life took control. I decided to go to college because I wanted to be a writer and I thought having a full education would help that. School took up a lot of my time. I gained a lot of friends. Was being more social. The writing started to slip. I always did it – but not as consistently. I would try to work on my other novel for writing classes – I had two going actually. The Big Deal novel and the Back Burner novel (this one I would work on for School).
My goal was to get into a writing program – help me achieve my dreams. But that didn’t pan out. I was devastated. I struggled in mediocre writing classes durning my undergrad days and only hoped that when I applied for grad school, I would get into a good MFA. History repeated itself and I was rejected by all the MFA programs I applied to in the States. This was crushing. I couldn’t help but wonder if it I had been in a great undergrad writing program, if things would have been different for me. The good side to all of this was that I had bonded with an English Professor who took me under her wing and saw me through the completion of my back burner novel. She encouraged me a lot and helped me a great deal when I was applying for grad schools. I think my dreams would have been completely destroyed if I had not been accepted to the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester (UK). It was a glimmer of hope.
Manchester was another story. It wasn’t totally what it should have been. I worked on two different novels for the MA and was unsuccessful with both. It was hard. I thought I would polish up the back burner novel. But once again it had turned into the same old case of, This isn’t working. So I switched, under advice from my tutor, who then left the program. I started back up on my big deal novel. It had been awhile since I last wrote anything for it. I thought it would give me the chance to reacquaint myself with the book and get back on track. Well, needless to say, it didn’t really work. There was a lot that went on that I won’t openly say, but the effects it had on me where traumatizing. It ruined my life. Manchester was not a good fit for me or my books. I didn’t write for a while after I finished the course. I couldn’t. I was lost. My dream was gone. I believed I just wasn’t good. That I didn’t fit in anywhere, that no one wanted my writing. Through all of this I had good friends who would push me and tell me to get on with it. I stopped work on the big deal novel and picked back up on the back burner one. I had finally figured out what it need to work. So I wrote and wrote and wrote. There was a glimmer of hope again. It took a while – mainly because I moved back to the US which offered a new set of problems – but I had the burning passion in me and fought through all the shit. I finished the back burner novel about a year ago. Last August actually, while I was in Ohio. I spent the last 6 months or so revising it with the help of a very dear friend. And you know, when we were finished with the revisions and I had my second completed draft of the book, I felt for the first time in 10 years that is was actually done. I felt as if I could walk away and it would be okay. It no longer nagged at me, rustled about in the back of my head. I had made it work and it was time to put it to bed. I was eager to get back to work on my big deal novel. It’s been 3 years or a bit more, but I am ready. I haven’t started yet because I have been shopping my back burner novel which is on the front burner for the first time with the flame on high. I am revising the draft based on feedback. I’m getting it pitch perfect for possible publication. When it’s as good as it can get, I’m going to start back up on the big deal book – hopefully that one won’t take another 10 years to complete!
As my 30th birthday quickly approaches, I can’t help but be reminded of all this. How can I not? It’s been an entire decade since I started on my novel (s). There have been a lot of ups and downs. A lot of roundabouts as well. I didn’t quite become the 20 something novelist of my dreams, but Cyndi Lauper said that life beings at 30, and as I get ready to make my novel debut, I totally believe her.