Six years ago this month, my short story collection, Prerequisites For Sleep, was published. At the time, I spent my days as a graphic designer who did some copy writing. I was in my mid fifties and had worked long and hard to make the book happen. In reality, it took ten years to complete and get published. The stories had been written several years earlier when I had been self employed and had the luxury of moving my work around to allow my creativity to focus on whatever project was flowing the best. They had been written after I wrote a novel that I was having trouble getting published because really, who was I. In Canada it was, and still can be, very difficult to get published if you don’t have any credibility. The short stories, eleven out of the thirteen, had been previously published in literary journals. They, along with my creative writing diploma from Humber in Toronto, provided my credibility.
Prerequisites For Sleep had a couple of very good reviews. What it didn’t have was good sales, which is not unusual for many “small press” books that don’t get the marketing hype offered by large publishing houses. Still I was finally published and I had a novel that I wanted to send out into the world and I had big plans to write full time once I retired.
A long time ago, when I was in grade three, I wrote a book of short stories the size of a small scribbler. Each one about two pages long in my most careful cursive, which was never very good because I was left handed and dragged my curled hand and arm awkwardly across a page that was habitually tilted by elementary teachers in the direction for right-handed students. Each story was accompanied by an illustration tentatively finished with shades of Laurentian Colored Pencils. The single story I remember from this collection was about a little pink car that was immensely unhappy being pink because it was made fun of by the other cars and was given limited opportunities, a situation that was resolved when the car was finally painted blue. What does this tell you? You don’t need Freud to figure this one out. At just 9 years old I felt like a repressed female. But more importantly, at nine years old, I felt like a writer.
Currently, on my computer, there is the completed novel that I never did get out into the world. I didn’t know what I didn’t know back then. Writing a novel is one thing, writing a good novel and getting it published is another. In the process of trying to get my novel published, I did dumb things like packing up and sending off an early draft to an agency. This novel was rejected and rewritten so many times that I reached the point where I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore.
There are also two other unfinished novels that, even though I know how they are to end, I just can’t come up with the details to complete the stories. There are a couple children’s chapter books, written over twenty years ago, based on JT and our late dog Freckles, which I thought about making into a series called Freckles and His Boy. Well written, according to the nicely worded rejection letters but too hokey for the market I suspect. Plus, in one, I had included an anthropomorphic animal, which outside of Disney, is a real faux pas. Who was I kidding? In reality I loved reading with my own kid back then, but I never really liked other kids that much so writing for a demographic that I couldn’t relate to was a bit of a stretch. Just because Dr. Seuss could do it didn’t mean that I could.
Upon retirement, I made a valiant attempt to work on both uncompleted novels but found that the ten years of pharmacy-related graphic design and concise copy writing had boxed in my imagination, worn down my creativity and changed my writing style. Instead I ventured into the world of creative non-fiction and spent months banging out a manuscript entitled, Cramps And Other Rants From A Sometimes Crazy Angry Bitch. I positioned it as part memoir, part personal essay and part rant. I have sent it out twice and have yet to hear anything. Now this is something I would love to see get out there because the little girl who wrote about the little pink car had a lot of anger and frustration inside her by the time she hit 60. And I don’t think I am the only woman of my generation to reach that point. But it may never get out there, and I am OK with that because it was the prequel to this blog.
So here I am, still writing after all these years. These days there is no pressure and no deadlines and no disappointment. Sometime in the last couple of years I realized that the only person who would be disappointed if I never published a second book was me, so I decided that I didn’t really need more disappointment in my life. Right now I am in control, I am still writing and I am far from disappointed.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, feel free to share.
Also thank you to Alison who’s recent post, On Childhood Memories: That House on Palmer Drive inspired me to write this. One can be both: the writer and the drinker. This I know for a fact.