If Not Now, When?

If Not Now, When?

            This is the question I asked myself last year, when I first considered self-publishing my novel, Every Little Step She Takes. I was about to attend my 40th high school reunion and I had to ask myself, had I achieved everything I’d dreamed about doing? Oh yes. And more. But while I’d had many of my short stories published, I still hadn’t been able to break down the walls of traditional publishing. Hadn’t even made a dent in them. (“Not for us, sorry.” “We like your characters, but the story doesn’t fit our guidelines.” “Have you tried writing a romance?”)

            Eighteen months later, I can’t complain. I now have two novels and one short story collection available in paperback or on Kindle, they’re selling well and building steam. Several book clubs have read my first novel, Every Little Step She Takes, and some of them have returned to read my second novel, “The Pleasure of Your Company.” Sales are building, and obviously, a lot of people received Kindles for Christmas – I can tell by the spike in sales on the 25th and after.

            So, what’s next? I’m working on my next novel, tentatively titled “Two Weeks Every Summer”, about a family at Camp Meeting, that Southern small-town religious revival/family reunion that provides a great, unique setting as well as a built-in situation ripe for comedy and drama. More on that as it goes.

            And hopefully, more blogging as 2012 unwinds. To get things started, I want to tell you about a great new book I got for Christmas. It’s titled “The Pocket Muse; Ideas and Inspirations for Writing” and it’s by Monica Wood, and therein lies a tale.

            Several years ago, I had gotten active in writing reviews on Amazon.com. Just for fun, in my free time. I was contacted by a writer named Monica Wood, asking if I would review her new novel, “My Only Story”. I was very flattered to be asked and immediately read the book, enjoyed it tremendously, and wrote the review. (It’s still on Amazon’s webpage for the book, although you’ll have to scroll down a way, I wrote it in 2000.) Then, a few weeks ago, I happened to read an article in Oprah magazine, titled “What Betty Knows”. The article was about a woman’s view of her mentally-handicapped sister (“Betty”) and how their relationship is shaped by their abilities and inabilities to enter each other’s world. I loved the article. Having my own sister with special needs, I am fascinated by how other families deal with these things. I even wrote about my special sister in “Another Weekend with Susie”, one of the stories in my short story collection, “After the Wink and other stories”.  Then I saw the author’s name – Monica Wood. The same Monica Wood? Yes, indeed.

            I went to her website, http://monicawood.com, and saw the titles to the other books she’s written since “My Only Story”. And was fascinated, once again, to see that she had written three books about writing, as well as three more novels. I immediately put her books on my Christmas wish list, and received The Pocket Muse from my son on Christmas morning. I opened the book and started leafing through it, and what jumped out at me? She starts her book by asking the reader, What are you waiting for? If not now, when?

            I love serendipity. I love the lucky coming together of chances. So, to me, this was serendipitous – that a book on inspiration would start where I started eighteen months ago, by asking myself to take a chance, to take a leap of faith. To recognize that I’m not getting any younger or any more beautiful, but maybe I can still become more creative, more able to express myself, more fearless about trying new things.

By the way – about “The Pocket Muse” – if you’re a writer, you’ll want to see this book. It’s full of photos, tips, and suggestions for free-writes to get you going. Example of a writing prompt: Fill in the blank. “Seven days ago ______________, and now nobody will talk to me.” Example of a writing tip: “Once a week, skip to the next part of whatever you’re working on, no matter how stuck you feel.” Example of some inspiration: “Writer’s Block? If you have a dog or cat, brush him. Take a lot of time. Relax. Compose your thoughts. Don’t panic. If you don’t have a pet, find a kid and braid her hair.” I’m loving this.

            So here’s my New Year resolution – to write more. Every day. Early in the morning, late in the evening, and to live to my utmost in between. I turn 60 this year, which is kinda scary and kinda empowering. Why hold back? Why not take the chance to create the kind of writerly life I crave, filled to the brim with inspiration from other writers and readers and fascinating characters. Seriously. If not now, when?

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