Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles novel forthcoming -- sometime
By Dawn Goldsmith
© Dawn Goldsmith 2009
I have these women running wild. They are brandishing vicious weapons and demanding that I write their story – or else! But they keep morphing. One minute there’s Rita with a biker babe background, no wait, she’s a war widow. No, no that’s not right, she’s a small town woman harboring a painful secret. She won’t hold still long enough for me to write about her! And then there’s Claire – is she or is she not having an affair with the college president?
Characters! How do I get them to talk to me, to tell me their stories, to help me write it and make a gazillion dollars?
Several well-established, respected, successful (monied) writers seem to face that same hand-to-combat each time they sit down to start a new novel. Mary Higgins Clark has been known to say that everyone just backs off and stays out of her way when she’s starting a new book. They know what kind of funk and frustration she’ll sink into. Others mention stomping around their office lamenting, “What ever made me think I’m a writer?”
Eventually it comes together. And the advice that results: Persevere. Those of us who have not followed that advice are still working on the same novel two, ten, my goodness – thirty years later!
Once upon a time I knew my life’s path. It came into focus with a life-changing jolt when a mystery magazine assigned me a book to review. A mystery, fourth in a series new to me, but evidently well received. The premise and protagonist seemed a bit whacky, but from the first page it felt so familiar.
I don’t mean that I had read this author’s work before. No. It felt like she was writing about my life.
In this novel the author described my youngest son, used his name, placed him in his favorite situation and that was just the opening scene. The book is set in an agrarian setting (much like my home town) with a heroine who is a farmer and a biker. The author graduated from a Mennonite college -- like my husband. And the author as well as her protagonist sound remarkably like a former editor from my home region, who was also Mennonite and affiliated with bikers during her adventurous life. Even the author’s disease of choice hit close to home.
When I perused the author's webpage, I saw an interview conducted by my personal hero and former colleague at the newspaper where I worked and first grew into the title: writer. The author presides over a writing group in the heart of my old stomping grounds surrounded by local writers with whom I had attended writing meetings back when I lived in the land where I belonged.
And she's doing readings in my favorite libraries in my home landscape.
Is this what happens when we don't take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself? Was it simply fear that diverted me from my true destiny? When we don't follow through on the ideas we start to turn into novels and never complete -- someone else does it?
In my stash of unfinished fiction lies a biker story, several farm-related stories, a potential serial, a romance, a mystery or two, some based on my son’s heavy metal experiences – not unlike the opening scene of the assigned novel. And all of them are four to six chapters long. That seems to be the time when the doldrums hit and I lose the momentum to finish a novel.
I'm not saying she has done anything wrong. Not at all. I'm just saying -- she's living my life.
She's living my life! Or at least the life I expected to live in the location where I expected to grow old.
I sent this author a couple of emails and I imagine by now she thinks I'm a stalker or feels threatened or is thinking lawsuit. Nope. Nope. Nope. I am amazed at the synchonicity, the déjà vu feeling of seeing work so familiar coming from another hand, another mind.
I am dazed and shocked and suddenly aware of how far from my expected life I have wandered. Talk about the butterfly effect and Freaky Friday.
Maybe it is time I at least finished those novels I started. See if maybe I can recoup a bit of my life before the fates hand her my story ideas, too. But if I write about characters based on my own family and experiences -- will it sound like I'm copying her?
The universe is shrinking and we are all connected. Now I'm wondering just how connected are we?
By the way, her novel is great. I think mine would be better -- but the funny thing is -- publishers don't sell unfinished novels.
For now I plug away at trapping the girls in my office each morning and then when they escape, turn to writing my book reviews and blogs. If anyone would care to contribute to my Observations http://www.wordsogold.blogspot.com/ which focuses on writing, writers, books, wannabes and great advice and inspiration, please let me know. The same for my other blog, what else: Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles http://www.subversivestitch.blogspot.com/ Between the reviews, blogs, and wrestling matches, I also write personal essays and articles for a variety of publications including The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, NBC News, and Better Nutrition.