November 19, 2008

THE WRITING LIFE: There’s a World Out There?

There’s a World Out There?

      At 4:30 p.m. I closed the word document I was working on. I lifted my head, relieved, and looked around me. The wind was blowing outside. The house was a mess.
     Then it hit me: There’s a world out there!
     Several years ago I was presented with a one hundred year history of an ancestor, who emigrated from France to the Maine territory of Massachusetts, during the French Revolution. Its numerous love stories inspired me to write a historical romance novel. I set the first of January, 2003, as my starting date.
     That February, while playing around on the Internet, I came across an article titled Fontaine Leval, A French Settlement on the Maine Coast, 1791. This was the very community that I was writing about, but finding out little information on! I immediately ordered a copy from the Antiquarian Society in Wooster, Massachusetts, and impatiently waited for its arrival, which took almost three months.
     When it arrived, I was in for a surprise. Virtually half of the “facts” reported in the one-hundred year history were wrong. Suddenly, I found myself on a fact find mission, during which I began uncovering numerous items that had never been published before. It was only logical to take the next step—finding a New England historical journal that would publish a paper I decided to write.
     In my search for a journal, I discovered a historical writing competition, which grabbed my attention. There was a nice prize package, money and publication. Later I learned that winners of the contest, and other successful submitters, fell in the category of those who had history and other credentials, from places like Harvard University.
     However, I knew that my topic—the profile of a female French émigré who did land investment and settling—had never been published in a journal, that the criteria concerning the time in history, the historical background and the uniqueness of the subject fit the journals competition objectives like a glove. And, I knew I could write.
     I intended to submit the article last year, but I simply could not get it done in time, even though I pushed myself to frustration and almost ruined the November-December holiday season. Then, a friend of mine was hired by a university where she could access materials I unavailable through the public library interlibrary loan. One was a book with a large number of William Bingham documents. I copied about seven hundred pages from the works two volumes. In September, my husband and I went to New England by way of Philadelphia this past September, and the materials I unearthed filled in the facts I needed to complete my research. I was fortunate I had not submitted the article last year. One section was quite incomplete.
     The article is a work that has taken a village to complete. My new-found community extends from my neighbors, to New England and Georgia, to Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands.
     I finally spoke with the editor of the journal, and, to my great relief, she said that submissions could be done with endnotes, rather than footnotes. Whew—MUCH easier! She also mentioned that non-winning articles are often published. No money, but great prestige!
     I sacrificed much to complete the article, which required tunnel vision and which includes many footnotes—the most difficult part, requiring accuracy and precision. To have it done by mid-November, so that I can clean up the house and enjoy the holidays, took closing myself off from the world. I neglected my writers group, my four blogs (including this one and the Beanery Online Literary Magazine), my other writing, my family and my friends. My sister, who lost a son in January, had a stroke in March and quadruple bypass surgery in April, told me she thought she’d lost a sister. My neighbor, with whom I keep in close contact, said she couldn’t tell people how I was when she asked—we’d been out of touch. My house—well, needless to say, it’s filled with paperwork, dust, clutter and disorder.
     I still have footnotes I must look up. And several persons will read the article, checking for mistakes, inconsistencies and lack of flow, which will require some adjustments. And my ending needs a little more work. However, these are miner details I can chip away at on a casual, but persistent, basis. The article will be postmarked earlier than required in spite of these natty problems. And I am convinced it will be competitive, having quality writing, much research and about a dozen previously unpublished facts.
     And the novel? I put the first words to paper several years ago. And each time something new was uncovered, these words were rewritten. Finally, I decided to put it aside until the research was done. Its new starting date is the first of January, 2009, six years after the initial target date. However, the work on the journal article will provide a historically accurate background and outline, something I wouldn’t have achieved so well had I not done the journal article.
     And who knows? Whether the journal article wins, or is published (one of which I am certain will happen), it will provide great publicity for the novel. And, perhaps, even an agent!
     NOTE: This is the first draft of this article, and I am very tired following a day of removing some of the disorder from my house. Please excuse any writing mistakes! Or, note them in the comment box for me to correct. I would appreciate your critique.


DAVID PAGE: Notes from St. David’s Writer’s Conference




THE ART OF THE INTERVIEW: Things Writers Should Know

ALL SUMMER IN A DAY: The Use of Descriptive Language







1 Comment »

  1. Wow…………. holy shit… lol…..

    You really sacrificed a lot for that… time, relationships, money.

    Tell me what happens, if you get the article published/paid that would be so cool. I really hope all the effort you put in you get out in satisfaction and publication.

    Comment by thethoughthole — December 4, 2008 @ 5:00 am | Reply

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