In the last paragraph
of Phase 1 I wrote: I vowed my writing would draw from the new understanding
that was emerging . . . I was working on a story line for a novel when my life
fell apart . . .
Since writing the first draft, it never left my
That typed draft stayed with
me through all my moves.
It lived in a
file drawer in my desk wherever I went.
In that file drawer also went other folders: one to hold articles, pictures
and clippings from newspapers and magazines; in another I put bits of
writing—dialogues, parts of chapters, single sentences, and thoughts and ideas
which might be developed—all to one day be part of the promised story.
This final phase of my life began when my last child
graduated from college; I resigned from my tenured faculty position to keep the
promise I’d made to my writer-self.
Everyone thought either I’d lost my mind, or I was acting like a
complete fool—but were kind enough to not say so.
I had the little 3 room house of my bachelor
uncle on the family farm, I live simply so my needs were few and I was alone,
thus no obligations . . . and for the next year, like building a jigsaw puzzle,
I worked to utilize those file-drawer pieces to create my story.
I wrote it, then for another year I sought a publisher (that
was when manuscripts were still sent to publishing houses) . . . each time it
Deeply disappointed, I
needed to find something else to do.
Teaching applications also brought rejections, as it was a period of too
many qualified applicants for too few openings.
I went to the west coast and lived for a few months in a borrowed RV in
a park in California working as a park volunteer in exchange for RV space and
Next I signed up for a teaching
mission in Haiti at the American University of the Caribbean—an emotionally
painful but enlightening experience.
After two years I returned to the states, went on a Lenten-long retreat
at a Benedictine Monastery in Oklahoma where I got encouragement from my
spiritual director to not give up on my book.
Again I immersed myself in re-working the manuscript and sent it out;
the results were the same but this time there was a little crumb of encouragement.
Twice some version of the sentence “well
written but of limited popular interest” appeared in a rejection letter.
Again I needed distance from it; I enrolled in a six-week
program in San Francisco and became certified to teach English in foreign
I took a short three-month
assignment in Kazakhstan with a group of Russian professionals who had basic
English but wanted to improve conversation skills.
I had a great time with that and have always
felt I gained more from that experience than they did.
I returned to again focus on sending more
inquiries, now sending only synopses as publishers no longer wanted full
Requirements had changed
but the results remained the same.
Next I spent a year in Chicago at the Institute of Spiritual
Leadership (ISL), an interreligious program that trained and certified
The program was
valuable but I was more or less expecting to find some support for my writing
there; but for that program, the writing was considered a distraction.
Upon my return to Connecticut my computer
crashed, losing my only electronic copy.
After I finished ranting, raving and crying (it took a while) I settled
into the onerous task of reentering the 400+ pages from hard copy to the new
computer brain after which I needed a break from it.
I learned that a student exchange organization, American
Field Studies (AFS) was seeking volunteer teachers to go to Thailand to teach
conversational English to high school students in exchange for transportation,
room and board.
I was sent to an area in
It was intimidating
because there were no other Americans and I did not speak Thai, yet it turned
out to be one of the highlights of my life!
As my stay was coming to an end the school offered me a contract, which
I was considering but before I came to a decision, emergency surgery and a
cancer diagnosis brought me back to the states for chemotherapy.
It seemed fortuitous that I was to return to
my book—I didn’t want to die with it unfinished.
Once back on my feet I applied myself to an extensive
over-haul of the manuscript; parts were reworked, things taken out, chapters
combined or divided, etc.
Again I looked
to publishers but now, in the second decade of the 21st
publishing houses want only agent-submitted work; so my next challenge was to
search for a literary agent.
effort went into composing query-letters, cover letters, synopses, proposals
and email queries for agents, each seemed to have different requirements.
I was told (by those who responded at all) that my story: -did not fit
any genre; -good writing but the story did not have broad public appeal; -it was
not within the expected form for a novel; -it would not draw enough readership
to justify publication . . .
I can’t begin to tell of what I felt . . . devastation . . .
not a sudden and unexpected tsunami; rather, a slow deepening sense of utter futility and crushing depression—a lifetime investment had come to a dead end . .
However painful the experience you think you can’t live
through, you find you can.
publishing was still in its infancy when I learned of it; I eventually found my
way to Amazon’s Createspace, a print-on-demand/electronic print service and The Stations
became a real book, ‘out
there in the world’.
I’m backed by no
establishment, have no wide-reaching network, I know nothing of marketing and
have no desire to learn, so it will never attract an audience beyond those I
know personally . . . but I kept the promise of a story full of ‘serious
thoughts’, and I haven’t stopped believing in it.
Do I have other books in me?
Ideas, even bits and pieces in a file drawer,
but the disappointment still weighs heavily so I’ll satisfy the writer in me
with a blog ‘ofseriousthoughts’.