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“I just love to write. It’s possibly an addiction, picking up the number two pencil and going like crazy until I hit the end of the page, then on to the next. When I don’t have a pencil, I write in my head, narrating my observations, sketching with words, scribbling out anything – plans, people, even lists. I just discovered that Fitzgerald too wrote list upon list. The random chatter of the mind, I suppose.
“I was delighted and relieved to have Do Not Find Me accepted by The Permanent Press. It’s my first and only published novel. A debut in midlife. Truly, I have been around awhile, at one desk or another writing poetry, letters, business documents, books, notebooks, essays, sometimes oddball tidbits that win prizes. A friend of mine asked me once if I set aside time each day to write, and recently reminded me that I answered, I am always writing. It’s true. I have never really experienced the thing called writer’s block, though I get stuck often and come back at it, as most writers do. But I have not stared wonderingly at the blank page. I don’t mind tossing bad drafts away. I lose poems all the time. And maybe this sense of the ephemeral allows me to plunge in.
“When I was in my 20s and sending out poems to small presses, I got a rejection letter from the then editor of the California Quarterly. I don’t remember her name, and I did not save her letter. She said, kindly I think, that I should take the intensity of my poetry into narrative fiction. Then you’d really have something, she concluded. But I heard only that she didn’t think I should be writing poetry.
“I didn’t write another poem for thirteen years.
“I did write everything else under the sun though, except narrative fiction. Just to prove her wrong. I wrote an ardent piece of what is now called creative nonfiction about a murder in my family history. I wrote a true short story, which might also be called creative nonfiction, about my parents’ obsession with perfect Christmas trees every year. But I didn’t write poems and I didn’t write books.
“Eventually, in a brief phase of intense sadness, I returned to poetry. And a decade later, in 2004, I chose to write fiction. More accurately, the book chose me; a story settled into me and wouldn’t let go. The narrative tumbled around me and trailed behind me and drove me nuts until I sat down to give it play. I was having the time of my life, lost in the story and excited to return to it whenever I could. It didn’t turn out to be that good. It wasn’t published and I set it aside. Last winter I went back to read it again and decided that I needed to write it all over again (which is what I am re-working now).
“Subsequently I’ve written other fiction trying to figure out the process, playing with characters and chronology, voices and plot. These are also unpublished. But these efforts paved the way for Do Not Find Me. I now believe the erstwhile editor of the California Quarterly (which years later actually did accept one of my poems) gave me a bit of truth back when.
“I am old enough to see the progressions and patterns of my life. I had three separate careers – as an English teacher, a corporate manager and a marketing consultant. In all of them I used my writing skills. But being a writer is not my career. It is what I am and what I most love to do.
“Decades ago I had a hairdresser who cut to precision, though the salon owner continually pushed her to hurry, hurry, hurry. I can’t do a haircut in a half hour, she told me. But I’m the one who is going to die an artist.
“So be it. Here’s to all of us who feel the same.”
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Do feel free to share your thoughts on this posting with Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org, with me, email@example.com or MOST IMPORTANTLY, on this very same blog post.COMING NEXT WEDNESDAY(December 9) Alex Austin continues this first novelist series.