Six years ago, at the beginning of Fall on the cusp of turning 50, and after a summer in which all confidence was beginning to abandon me in many areas of my life, I put together a selection of poems and sent them out in the world. I had not attempted to publish anything for eight long years, but continued to write, write, write. On my shelf, each in their own notebooks, were two and two thirds novels, several short stories and many poems. I’m not sure why I never submitted. Perhaps it was the confidence thing, work, laziness, the thought that only writing was the thing that mattered, but most likely it was a combination of all those things. So I submitted several poems finally and won the 2010 Creekwalker Poetry Prize juried by Jannie Dresser, a well-known and lovely Bay area poet. I was astonished. I couldn’t believe my luck, but it did wonders for me – so my thanks to Ms. Dresser – even to this day. Like the Cowardly Lion I felt I’d been given courage by the great and powerful Oz.
I embarked on publishing and put out my first ever novel on Amazon Kindle and entered “The Palisades,” into the Lambda Literary Contest and, lo and behold, it became a finalist. Again, flabbergasted, it was as if I’d been waiting for some sort of validation all my life. Matt Yau, whose well-respected blog, A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook is read widely, placed it on his Top 12 Books for 2010. When I first read his review, I was weeping in the streets since I was reading it off my cell phone in downtown Seattle. Again, validation.
My experience of that book led me to release “The Narrows, Miles Deep,” a deeply personal narrative of the HIV/AIDS plague years. Felice Picano chose it as a best book of 2011 for Lambda Literary Foundation’s year-end round up.
Gaining confidence, I finally finished “Airstreaming” after 12 long years from it’s first few lines to finished manuscript. I released that a year after “The Narrows, Miles Deep.” For me, “Airstreaming” was a pure act of storytelling. Trying to write something completely out of myself, I was insistent on every page being absolutely free of anything I knew, or anything I felt a need to say, but when I got the editor’s notes back she asked if the lead character in the book, Linda, was me. I was floored. Yes, it was. I had written about my need for independence at that age, only I didn’t realize it until someone else pointed it out.
All of these books continue to sell. A few copies in July, nine copies last month, with little to no marketing any more. I haven’t had the time or the energy since the heart bypass. But it does make my heart glad that people are still discovering the work. Do I wish I were selling on a Stephen King pace, or even an Annie Proulx pace – yes, of course – but it’s more exciting to learn on an odd day that someone has read your work that you didn’t know, or receive an email from someone who’s been affected by it. I hope someday someone with influence will discover the work in an organic way and deliver it out to a lot of people, but until then, every little bit helps including recently placing a poem in a literary journal. I do want to get out there and read again, that’s for sure, and I will. It’s a confidence thing again…
Since the heart “incident” finding the confidence for just about everything has been extremely difficult. I have close to 20 pages for a sequel to Airstreaming and about half that for an entirely different novel. Perhaps I just need to write a few sentences, or take the computer to my favorite coffee shop and disappear for a while into the pages. Or stand up at Hugo House and read a few poems during open mic night. The fear of not making it through the latest round of poems keeps me from doing so. Is it distance I need? I’ve been thinking about all of this these days – particularly with the onset of Fall.
I dreamt of a kayak the other night – and of the sea.
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