For the past few years, I’ve been writing my second memoir. It’s about falling in love and marrying in old age.
John was married to my life-long friend Marcia for almost fifty years. Some time after her death, their children invited me to his seventieth birthday. Exactly a year after the birthday celebration, we married.
We didn’t just marry like a good conforming aged couple should, surrounded by our children and grandchildren. On a Monday morning in May, 2007, we eloped. We celebrated our wedding in spectacular fashion with Nuptial Mass, complete with music, flowers and candles, in my parish church – empty except for us and our four witnesses.
In honour of our wedding day, Father Trevor Simons, my parish priest and the celebrant of our Mass and marriage, wore the gold-fabric vestments he usually reserved for high feast-days . He acted as if John and I were starry-eyed twenty-some-things, embarking on our first marriage.
At the airport that evening, before we flew to Paris at the beginning of our honeymoon in France, we posted a pile of carefully-crafted cards to our families and friends. The cards announced that John and I had married that morning and we would see them again in a couple of months’ time.
Little did we dream of the storm that would erupt in some quarters when those letters arrived.
My new memoir is about our courtship and marriage in the last third of life, and about the aftermath of our decision, complicated by family and the reality that he had experienced a long and happy previous marriage and I had lived alone and celibate for the previous thirty years following a divorce.
Four months ago, after working on my story for some years, I decided, as one does, that it was finished. At any rate, I was finished with it and wanted to move on. I bundled it off to a publisher.
As anyone who has done it will well understand, sending a tender new manuscript out into the world is laden with the terrible twin emotions of fear and hope.
There is fear because of the high possibility of rejection of one’s baby. Like new parents, writers find it difficult to admit their babies aren’t perfect. Parents quickly discover that the infant for whom they had so longed and hoped has a tendency to leak at both ends, and to sing out of tune, especially at three o’clock in the morning, when the parents might prefer to sleep rather than attend to the needs of the small, demanding person who has taken up residence with them.
Writers also often discover that their manuscript is not perfect; no one loves their baby as much as they do.
On the other hand there is hope because there is also the possibility, however slim, that some discerning reader will love the manuscript so much they will convince a publisher that it is a must-buy, destined for the best-seller lists in the near future.
I sent my manuscript to a publisher I know and trust, who had recently taken up a position with a different publishing company from the one she had worked with previously. She said she liked my writing and the story. But she added,
‘It doesn’t fit with our list. Perhaps you could try…’
The second publisher liked the first 5000 words I sent him well enough to ask to see the complete manuscript. He has had my baby for a couple of months and he let me know me last week that it is still under consideration.
If writing a story is the gestation period, waiting to hear about its fate it is like a long, long labour. Little wonder I am anxious and impatient – an understatement if you listen to my husband.
Meanwhile, I haven’t settled down to write anything new. A writer who is waiting to hear from a publisher would be bad enough. But a writer who is waiting, and at the same time not writing, is decidedly – messy. Writers write. That’s what they do. When they stop, the consequences can be dire. They clean the pantry, bathroom cupboards and the top shelves of the wardrobe in the guest room. They fidget. Moan. Complain. Find fault. Start arguments.
Now it’s definitely time for me to engage with a new writing project. Dusting off old, half-forgotten, unpublished novels won’t do – I’ve tried that. A blog is good – I’ve tried that too – but it isn’t enough. The next project needs to be meaty, research-based and satisfying.
As the author Natasha Lester pointed out in a blog post recently, at 500 words a day it takes just under six months to write a book of 80 000 words. I can probably write 500 words most days if I put my mind to it.
Please stay tuned for the next instalment of my writing journey. You will read it here.
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