Thursday, October 10, 2013
Yes, it is right, my dear poet, to speak after long silence, but for me, Mr. Yeats, it won’t be about the supreme theme of Art and Song, there being far too much of that in my Great September 2013 Novel Revision that I’ve just this moment at 10:10 a.m. on October 9, declared done—ah, how cool it is outside.
Done. Done. Done. The number of times I’ve declared this novel over and done don’t bear counting. I nearly abandoned it after the first two hundred pages. The sweet siren of short stories moved in and inhabited me during my first fiction workshop with Mary Clyde and Robin Lippincott, both masters of the short story. Mary Clyde, my mentor that summer, must have thought I was coming unhinged with the number of new stories I was sending her each month—all under a pseudonym: V. Hasseltine Taylor. LOL Sounds like a romance that should have Fabio on the cover. Au contraire. I was looking around at the realities of life as I knew it—growing up in a mill town, rehabbing a hand surgery in a roomful of other recovering patients, vacationing with four other couples we had known since our first Savannah days when the kids were young—everything, all of it was gritty grist for my short story mill.
The next semester when I studied with Brad Watson, he was less cheerful about my eternal output. He wanted to see some revision rather than more new stuff. “Stop trying to sound like Eudora Welty,” he wrote, regarding my new “Envenomation” which was over the top with snakes. Written by Kathleen Thompson. Well, Brad Watson was the age of my son...just saying. I doubt he would ever have figured out the business of a pseudonym. I wrote him back that neither Eudora Welty nor his beloved state of Mississippi had the corner on names like Lovie and Radio, or cottonmouths.
Writing short stories had run its course by my fifth and final workshop, so I picked up the old Lost (working title) manuscript and submitted twenty pages. And did I say the idea was conceived the summer of 1991? My son was home from college teaching Savannah kids how to play tennis. I told him I would kill for a plot. Easy for him and he was eager to help out. He wrote on a yellow legal pad. Very little remains of the plot on that page, but how many embryos resemble the resulting adult? The seed was sown. 1991. Think of it. Twenty-two years.
My son has named me Queen of Revision. I do enjoy making things better and better. But it’s so much easier with a poem or essay whose length is more proportional to my narrow pea brain. (My higher math.) I’ve actually looked around for a clear wall and thought of imitating Faulkner (truly I like most things Mississippi including good ole boy Brad and his short story dogs) but the only open wall spaces are ceilings so I’d have to pull a Michelangelo if I outlined the novel as Faulkner did. I settled for a new set of big index cards as my organization tools.
And, all this is just my first baby step. Just call me Queenie. And now the harder parts: finding an agent who can help find an editor who will, no doubt, insist on more revision. Right now I need to plant a few violas and snapdragons. First things first.