And So It Begins
On the morning of my mother's surgery, I finally got news. A publisher wanted to discuss with me the possibility of offering me a contract. This Maybe-Yes had been decades in the making.
I wrote my first story at around 8 years old. I can still see me sitting at the foot of my bed on the old, scuffed hardwood floor of my childhood home, the one Mom lives in to this day. I wrote my first novel, or tried to, as a 10-year-old. It was an enemies-to-friends love story (because at 10 I knew so much about romance).
Written on wide-rule notebook paper, that novel was quickly discarded. I drafted the first chapters and the last one, but I'd run into a problem: the young soon-to-be-lovers ("lovers") were supposed to get trapped in a cabin by a snowstorm and fall in love. The problem? I couldn't figure out how to make a blizzard hit them in June.
So, I gave up.
The idea for my second book hit me around 13. As I recall, it was a dreary winter, and I was trapped inside; mountain winters can get pretty bad, at least back then. Suddenly, a character came to me: a young girl my age who was a slave in what I (naively) thought back then were the final days of slavery.
I wanted to tell her story (first-person narrative) about her last days as a slave against the backdrop of the Civil War. I'd like to say that I put aside that story because I, as a young, white girl in 1980s Appalachia, had no clue how to write a first-person narrative from her (my MC's) POV. Later, I would have to contend with other questions: for example, is this my story to tell?
Back then, I did NOT wrestle with difficult questions about whiteness, narrative colonization, etc. Instead, I gave up on my second book because I was too lazy to do the necessary work.
Cut to my 20s. I co-authored my first completed manuscriptwith a friend of mine while we were in graduate school. After school, we traveled to her birth country ofIndia and finishedthe book there. The book was 500 sprawling pages of mess. But at last I had "finished" writinga novel.
It would take decades more and multiple manuscripts for me to have the courage to query agents and submit my subsequent books to publishers.
Finally, there came a time, though, when the book I had spent years lovingly writing and rewriting got into the hands of the right publisher. It took tons of hard work, and I had to shove back imposter syndrome. Repeatedly!
I didn't give up.
That January morning, while I waited to hear about my mother's surgery, I got an unexpected email: a Maybe-Yes that, after a meeting and multiple emails, turned into a YES.
And so begins this portion of my journey, a journey long in the making. Thankfully, I never gave up, not really. I just changed course several times.