I’ve been longing for the South recently…warmer weather, pecan pie, peach pie, peanut pralines, any kind of pralines, warmer weather…ok, any kind of pie…
For some reason today I began thinking of Gone With the Wind and Margaret Mitchell – a story and a woman synonymous with the South. It’s been a long time – too long – since I read the book. Ms. Mitchell was what they call now a “one hit wonder.” Sadly, it wasn’t her fault as she got hit by a car and died in 1949. Perhaps we would’ve heard more from her – an amazingly gifted voice with a keen understanding of the complicated place she came from (lest anyone think the South is just the land of magnolias, pecan pie and quaint accents). When I think that GWTW was her first published novel, I can hardly fathom it. No one had ever read the manuscript before it ended up in the arms of an editor.
Some days, I think giving birth to triplets without benefit of an epidural must be easier than giving birth to a novel. Or for that matter, any fully-formed piece of writing. I’ve had short stories drive me to tears, make me eat entire pizzas, and endure hours of pain bringing they emerged into this cold, cruel world. Writing, like pregnancy and child birth, is hard work and can, at times, cause me to utter howls of misery. Sometimes, it’s like an out of body experience. I’m Miss Prissy, standing over my toiling self, wringing my hands and mewling, “I don’t know what to do!”
I remember being a new mother for the first time – it was scary and the amount of conflicting advice made it more so. It’s happening with the book too, leaving me overwhelmed and confused. I attend seminars, workshops, and writing classes – much like the Lamaze classes I attended. Proper breathing; proper punctuation. I learned about something called swaddling; I learn how to develop characters. But once that baby is ready to come out, anyone who stands over me, trying to be helpful and murmuring about my happy place is likely to lose a testicle (Dr. Donovan, I’m so very sorry). Novels, like babies, come in their own time and in their own way. Some arrive gently; others have to be hauled out kicking and screaming. Once born, they have to be raised-harder still. They rarely behave the way the books or classes tell us they’re going to. Some characters are easygoing; others refuse to settle down and go where you want them to. Some require an exorcist. While human baby mortality rates are low in the 21st century, it cannot be so with first-time novel attempts.
I’m still in labour. It might be a year before this story is born – I hope it’s sooner because no one who lives with me is going to want to bear witness to the pain and the howling that will ensue if it goes on too long. Everyone will be wearing hockey helmets and er…protective devices. Hopefully, a story worth reading will emerge. I harbor no expectations that it will be an epic masterpiece like GWTW. I’ll be incredibly thrilled if it is published, more thrilled if family members wait until their out of earshot before howling. Nonetheless, I’ll begin the next one before too long because like that woman on reality TV, I just can’t help making
babies…er, I mean stories. Some day maybe I’ll feel like I know what I’m doing.