Back To The Beginning

Last spring, on my 28th birthday, my husband took me to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  I was so normal back then.  I woke up, went to my job, devoured books, played with my dogs, hung out with my family.  I never, ever imagined that one tiny trip and four days would effectively change my whole life.

Driving towards the Pacific Coast, along the winding and dangerous highways, there are beautiful, timeless harbor towns.  So beautiful you wouldn’t believe.  Homes set high above cliffs, the Puget Sound out the back door and captivating views of Mount Rainer from the front, panoramic windows set inside craftsman homes offering views of the world.  As a girl from the midwest, you can only imagine how magical this was for me.  My life; North, South, East or West and everywhere in between is flat, flat, flat. I was won over–very, very easily.  Maybe it was the greenness of the land; trees dripping heavy with rain soaked moss and ferns.  Maybe it was the restlessness of the coast; wild with crashing white capped waves and tumbled stones, graveyards for fallen driftwood beached white with salt.  Maybe it was the sea life; the baby elephant seal behind a hallow log waiting on his mother, or the starfish that washed ashore in clusters to hungry seagulls who swooped the shore, tide pools teeming with life so bright and full it was hardly real.  But, whatever it was, I was so lost and so found all in the same moment.

I came back home different.  I needed to live there, only, I was tied to this place by work and a home and all the other nonnegotiables that one manages to collect over a lifetime.  Still, I would sit up at night haunted.  Everything about the Olympic Peninsula sang to me–and that would not quiet itself.

One night, long after my husband fell asleep, I opened a new document on my computer and just started typing.  No, I didn’t outline or worry the finer details of writing a novel–all of that came later.  I just started by telling a story.  I set up shop in a small coastal town that we’d visited, a real place with good restaurants and quant shops, and researched all I could about life there.  What are the schools like, what is the median income, what sort of folk live there.  I did all the background as though I was moving there, because, really in many ways I was.  I was writing my first novel based on that place, tying myself to it forever and ever Amen. I built a dream home with words and made the land the center focus, my protagonist loved the place as much as I did.

Then, the story grew.  It stopped being only about the place and started to be about the people.  My people.  And, once I knew who they were and what they did and why they did it…they took over.  They completely and entirely drove the story, I knew exactly what was supposed to happen and when.  That honestly surprised me lots.  It was joyful, to tell the story of the Chamberland family, and it was easy.  

Once my book hit about 30,000 words, I knew this was serious.  I didn’t know how serious, but I wasn’t going to stop until I finished it.  I bought the Publishing For Dummies book, and Writing Your First Novel, I poured over the pages with such seriousness.  I owed to my little story the best I could muster.

So that’s that, then.  Where it all started, on Highway 101.

Let Me Tell You A Story….

Once upon a time there was girl.  She was just an average girl, with an average job, working above average hours.  She’d wake up at 6 in the morning, get to work by 7 and stay there until it was dark outside.  She’d drive home, kiss her husband and play with her dogs. She’d open her Kindle and read books.  Books that touched her, inspired her, scared her, made her laugh and made her cry.  She’d scour the internet looking for more books, more books, more books, never getting her fill of the written word.

One day, that girl had a brainstorm, a small spark.  She was nervous at first, opening the blank page on her computer and typing the words.  But she believed in the story, so she kept writing.  She still worked her job, kissed her husband and played with her dogs.  But now, she’d go to bed at 3 in the morning and guzzle coffee on the way to work.  She’d skip the grocery store and order in.  She’d write, and write, and write–she was inspired and scared. Sometimes she felt like fraud and sometimes the belief in her project overwhelmed her.

Four months later, after endlessly long nights and emotional wrought, that girl finished her book.  She drove with her husband to Kinko’s and asked a man in a purple shirt to please print and bind her book.  30 minutes later, still warm from the press, she held in her hands, her story.  She wasn’t scared anymore, only excited.  100,00 words and they were all hers.

But the girl knew that wasn’t enough.  She wanted to publish her book.  She wanted to see it, with a glossy cover and ribbon binding beside her favorite authors at Barnes and Nobel.  So, she made up her mind, she was going to try.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, she promised herself.

Her sister laughed when she weighed the merits of particulars of post-it notes and pens at Target.  But these were her tools, she said, they had to be “just so”.  Another few weeks passed slowly.  The girl sat at her kitchen table, hunched over her story, reworking and editing and finessing the finer details, building her characters to have gravitational pull, giving them their rightful voice.  She toted her husband to Borders, snatching up every publishing-for-virgins book she could find.  She dreamt about her story, and found herself not only staying up late, but getting up early.  It takes work to make it work.

If you didn’t already guess…the girl is yours truly.  And, it’s all true.

Four months ago a story came to me, like so often happens to authors, from the middle of absolutely nowhere.  But it was real.  It was something I would read–not that that means anything per say, but I am a pretty ravenous reader.   I was (and am) balancing this endeavor with a “full time plus” job.  A Nanny-by-accident, my job isn’t exactly a walk in the park, I’m “on” for 10 and sometimes more hours a day.  But, I’ve made it work.  Juts and lags, ebbs and flows, but I did it–I wrote a book.

As many authors can attest, writing for ones self is an amazing gift…but it almost always is accompanied by the desire to do something with it.  After all, you’ve created lives, conflict, drama, happiness, grief…that can’t all be boxed up on your computer…right?

This blog, the La Bella Novella blog, is my journey.  I’m just starting out…green and fumbling, as I like to say…into the literary world.  I’m starting from absolute scratch, no friends in high places, no frame of reference, just me and my little (okay, not so little) book.

I gave this blog a name because I like to name things–but, more so, because I thought the name was fitting–La Bella Novella means, roughly, A Beautiful Story.  And that is my hope…but I don’t exactly know what that means, sitting here tonight blogging.

Does that mean this is going to be an easy road?  Am I going to query the right agent (who also happens to be a pit bull, black belt, legal savant and future, life long friend)…am I going to be swooped upon by big publishers with money to burn (who also happen to believe as hard in my little/big book as I do)…am I going to be hunted down by Hollywood with clamoring offers for picture rights (and A-list stars foaming at the mouth to play my characters)…or…am I going to learn all sorts of things I never intended to about disappointment, embarrassment and hurt (crickets…)….am I going to have to go it alone into the wild of publishing (thank you Amazon, B&N and the like for making that an option, by the way)…

We’ll have to wait and see.  But, I’ll say this because I mean it–because it’s already beautiful–I’m going into this with hope.  High, high, holy hope.  I hope something beautiful can come from this learning experience–down a path many, many have taken before.