13 Jun 13

What I’ve Been Up To

Virginia Woolf said that all you need to write is five hundred pounds and a room of one’s own. She wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie. To my amazement and gratitude, I’ve been given that kind of support over the last six months by my awesome husband, which has allowed me to work full time on the first book I may actually be able to publish. If I pull this off, remind me that he deserves at least 93% of the proceeds as well as about 800 foot rubs.

I’ve tried to publish before. In my early twenties I wrote a remarkably horrible piece of shlock called Eight Days in February. At the time I was terribly let down by the fact that all twenty book agents I sent it to promptly declined to polish the turd I’d sent them. Now I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t more self-aware as a writer.

I’ve managed to get a few things written in the interim. I have a pile of short stories and half-finished novellas buried in my hard drive that have never seen the light of day. I wrote a Master’s Thesis on how rad the poem Pearl is and why it’s a mind-blowing work of science fiction, and I still scribble thoughts on the vital cultural importance of the Black Death that, in a parallel universe, would have become the backbone of a Ph.D dissertation. I’ve contributed to the Dudespaper and for the first time saw my name in print in a little thing you may have seen called The Abide Guide.

The project I’ve been working on is drastically different from anything I’ve worked on before. It’s an illustrated children’s book. I never thought I would try to do a book for children, least of all one with drawings in it. I can’t draw. I have no formal training in art whatsoever and don’t know anything about how the children’s book industry works. But on Thanksgiving last year I made up a story to distract my three-year-old niece to keep her from bugging the grownups in the kitchen, and she liked it enough that I thought it might be worth developing. I asked around and tried to find an illustrator but I had two problems: I couldn’t find anyone interested in helping me out and even if I could, I was too broke to pay an artist. As a musician and wordsmith, I know what it’s like to be strung along on someone else’s project with the promise of cash “when it all works out.” On principle, I refuse to do this to a fellow artist. So I shrugged my shoulders and went to the craft store, investing in a cheap pad of drawing paper and a set of colored pencils of quality only marginally better than a box of crayons.

Six months later, I have a working draft that, while in need of a good deal of polishing, is functional and tells the story. I had to learn a lot of hard lessons about illustration on the way and have had to redraw and redraw and redraw, but so far everyone who has seen my drawings has been able to correctly identify the species of the characters on the page, so I’m hopeful that it might work out.

It’s thirty-two pages of a story that, let’s face it, applies directly to me. It’s about somebody who is so afraid of messing up in life that they nearly hold back and give up on trying, risk of failure be damned. Maybe the book will suck. Maybe it will do well. But either way, I tried, and I couldn’t have done it without the unflinching support of the awesomest spouse I could ever have imagined. I often feel bad for the rest of the human race because there’s only one of him and nobody else gets to be as happy as me. In every sense I could not have done this without him, which is why I really, really, really hope I can justify his good faith by getting published and sell at least one copy of this book to someone other than my mom.

It’s still too early for me to put up any teaser images or give away the plot of the story, but let’s just say that, unsurprisingly, I’ve chosen to draw heavily on medieval art, my main characters are a dragon and a viking, my cats have a cameo appearance wherein they steal somebody’s dinner, and there is lots of fire and rainbows because, well, fire and rainbows are rad. The book is called The Dragon Dance and with any luck, it will be coming soon to a bookshelf near you.