Five years ago, something wonderful happened, and I don’t mean something out of Stanley Kubrick. Dave Bowman didn’t invite me on a date and the space craft Discovery didn’t get jacked by the HAL 9000. My odyssey had nothing to do with outer space. A great reckoning, it came in the form of a memento mori—a reminder of death—that turned out to be more inspiring than terrifying.
How could I know in that moment, a moment when I lost contact, that I would regain something bigger than myself? Allow me to digress. Like many young people, thirty years ago, I longed to express myself. Gloria Steinem, Margaret Atwood, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and others had spent the better part of their waking hours daring us to make a difference, and we were ready to take up the challenge. Trouble was, I had nothing to say. My first foray into literary excellence *laugh loudly* was a piece called Technological Advances in Bathroom Fawcetry. A great title, it had nothing whatever to do with metal things that shoot water. It was, instead, a study in big words with a few Latin terms thrown in for style and texture, along with a million appositives just to show that I knew how to use them properly. Nothing of Technological Advances survives; I have vague recollections of burning it when I realized how pompous it actually sounded. Like ice skating, writing appeared to be something beyond my purview, and I put it away along with the blades.
And then the muse appeared, and everything changed. Like monsterpause—a condition to be endured and not recommended—the muse spoke to me from a place beyond my understanding. Couched in grief, and accompanied by a bewildering feeling that I, too, was getting closer to the finish line, the muse spoke to me in verse and I begin to transcribe.
Wonky, no? I was ashamed to admit it, but it took the death of another to start a fire. As pages filled with random thoughts, dialogue and scenes—some true, some not—I realized that I’d found what my writing teachers* call—a voice.
Loving it, learning it, making it come alive, it gave me an energy I didn’t know I had.
Yesterday, I got an e-mail from my editor. The first round of edits for Heuer Lost and Found, the first of four novels with three more to go—had arrived. I had to lie down.
Getting to “yes”—that spectacular three letter word that meant I was getting published—was a joy. Getting to “next”—the edits, locked away in my hard drive, waiting—will be even better. The finish line is moving farther away from me; in its place, a new life, and a new beginning.
* http://writescape.ca/site/ Thank you Ruth E. Walker and Gwynn Sheltema.