Over a month ago, I posted for the first time in ten months. My plan was to begin posting and reading blogs again on a regular basis. What I’ve learned in a rather long life is that plans “oft go awry”! What I hadn’t planned for is the time necessary for completing a memoir.
I began this memoir—one centered on my years in the convent—back in July 2014. I’ve now written four drafts of it. And as Wordsworth would say, “My heart leaps up when I behold” a completed manuscript!
Sister Innocence. Age twenty-three.
This particular 74,000-word memoir originated with a request from an agent way back in June 2014. I’d sent her a query about my cat fantasy manuscript—The Gift of Nine Lives. While exploring my blog, she discovered I’d been in the convent.
The same day I e-mailed the query, she responded, asking me if I’d ever considered writing a convent memoir. If so, she said, she’d be interested in looking at it.
My friends in Minnesota call me “no-grass-grows-under-her-feet Ready!” That was never truer than with this memoir. I sat down at the computer and for two weeks didn’t even brew my daily shots of tea. By the end of that time, I had twenty polished pages to show her.
I pasted them into an e-mail and sent it to the agent. I never heard from her again.
Recently, I looked at those twenty pages and could see why she’d expressed no interest in pursuing the idea. The writing was amateurish. Wordy. Dull. A lot of telling and not much showing; a lot of explaining; a lot of philosophizing. A lot of boring detail. You got it—Lousy!
Despite the agent’s lack of interest, a friend who knew quite a bit about publishing encouraged me to continue. “Dee,” she said, “you want to get published. A convent memoir just might get an agent’s attention. More so I think than your first-century Palestine novel. Or the one about Bronze-Age Greece.”
“But those two grabbed me. Doing something about the convent sounds boring.”
“It won’t once you get into it.”
“It’s ancient history. Who’d be interested?”
“Your blog readers liked your convent stories. I bet there’s lots more readers out there who’d read it.”
“But what about the novels?”
“Get the memoir done and published. Then readers will want more from you. That’s when you’ll get the novels published.”
“It’s worth a try.”
She was right. It was worth a try. And I did have some basic questions niggling my inquisitive brain. I’d been twenty-two when I entered the convent; nearly thirty-one when I left. Who was I then? Why had I entered? And more importantly, why had I left when so many stayed?
I opened myself to memories. Welcoming my summons, they came. With some came tears. With others, a great lassitude. With still others I felt the wonder of being young and in love with the idea of monasticism.
Next Sunday, I’ll write more about the months that followed. Today I’ll close by saying that nine readers—of various ages and background—are now reading/assessing the manuscript. I hope that before the end of November, I’ll know their thoughts. The big questions are, of course, does the story have an audience? Is the writing strong enough to interest that audience? Does it grab the reader?
In writing for all those months, I got lost in a thicket of words. I no longer have an objective view of what’s in that manuscript. I hope by the end of this month I will.
Waiting, my friends, is hard!!!!!