Twenty years ago this month I started writing scripts for a small performance group. Six months later I wrote a short story about a woman and her brother who was dying of AIDS that eventually grew into my first novel, completed in 2000. The sequel was written in 2004. The sequel to that, in 2007. The fourth book in the series was finished in the summer of 2012.
None of them have been published....yet.
Strange that after two decades of waiting and wondering when I would be published, my memoir will be released in less than three weeks. The one book I had no desire to ever write, for I prefer fiction, although as E.B. White wrote, "All writing is both a mask and an unveiling." Now, instead of hiding behind characters and scenarios I create in my imagination, I'll soon be both unmasked and revealed.
Not that whole story will be told.
I've been careful not to skew events or leave out important moments in my history. Friends who have read earlier drafts tell me I've told the truth and yet have been able to be discrete, a balancing act that hasn't been easy to manage. I'm picky, you see. Pickier than I used to be in terms of finding just the right word, the best punctuation, the most succinct way of getting my point across without being terse. Without pointlessly embellishing the events. Without being redundant.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Near the end of this long marathon to the book launch, I was supposed to be waiting on pins and needles while a publicist at a publishing house planned my tour itinerary. Book signings and speaking events and public relations interviews were supposed to be lined up. A press pack sent to media companies all over the country. And like the last shot in the film, Julie and Julia, I was supposed to hold in my hands the tangible, hardcover copy of all the years of my hard work.
But it was not to be...and surprisingly, I'm glad to be the only one running this race. There may be plenty of friends and well-wishers in the stands, but in the end, it's up to me to keep going. To cross the finish line on my own.
Self-publishing online was not a reality when I began writing my first novel. But now I find myself eagerly reading through a stack of documents from Amazon, Kindle and Apple and know that this is the best way for me to dive into the new and ever-changing world of writing. Just as I've learned the difference between wanting to have a baby and wanting to be a mother (see Good Mourning), I've learned the difference between wanting to be published and wanting to share my books with the world.
Thank God I didn't get what I wanted when I wanted it. And as you'll see when you read the memoir, that applies to a lot more than selling my novels.
In the meantime, I've had the time to hone my skills. To practice patience. To let the stories breathe. To grow as a writer and a human being. To realize I still have a lot more learning to do. And to know I'm now ready to take a leap of faith...to finish this race on my way to new destinations.
How could I have known twenty years ago that the road would be so long? How could I know that I would have to wait through endless obstacles? Long periods of frustration and doubt?
But how could I have known the joy discovered within the process...the hours of silent reawakening as I sat at my computer and let the stories pour through me. The delight in holding my vision and seeing it through. The integrity found in learning how to write novels that let the characters speak their truth...and then in turn, learn how to speak my own. To listen to that part of me that never fails to provide inspiration, even in the midst of the unknown.
Every day since the New Year has brought momentum. Every day a new connection with someone who is helping me with licensing agreements or cover photos or rewrites. Every day a new blessing that leads me on.
Earlier in the week I was talking with my dear friend and editor, Joyce. "Any last words of wisdom as I make my way through this last edit?" I asked her.
"Yes," she chuckled gently. "Eventually you're going to have to stop and just let the book go as it is. You're ready," Joyce said confidently.
Now, as I smile through my tears, I know she's right.