In a few days, I’ll turn thirty. I’m excited for it – from what I hear, it’s a great decade, and though my twenties weren’t entirely miserable, I’m happy to leave them behind and walk boldly in the direction of my future. Well, in the direction, anyway. Boldly…ah, we’ll work on that.
I have a clear memory of being a college student and filling out some kind of survey where I stated my goal of publishing two books by my thirtieth birthday. I’ll miss that deadline just slightly – Oh My Darling officially publishes three weeks after my birthday – but still, I’m calling that a goal achieved. So what’s the next one?
I have another clear memory of being in grad school. For my publishing class, I had to interview several editors and publishers, and one of them told me that, in his experience, 75% of MFA graduates never write again after they graduate. At the time, I thought that was ridiculous. That will never be me, I scoffed. I’m a Writer, I said. That will never happen, I really and truly believed.
Except for Oh My Darling – and really, only because of Clementine, who was a character I loved right away, and became immediately, irrevocably obsessed with – I’ve written very, very little since I completed my MFA six years ago. In that time I’ve submitted almost nothing and published less. If I wasn’t exactly writing nothing, I certainly wasn’t living up to the MFA hopes and dreams I’d had for myself.
So next up for me is going back to school, in a matter of speaking. Soon I begin a weekly class at Hugo House where I’ll get down to the hard, messy business of drafting a novel. Maybe, if I work very hard, by my fortieth birthday, I’ll have finished it…
Recently I read three novels about three very different women: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, Lifeline by Rainbow Rowell. Elizabeth is Missing was gorgeously written – a slow, twisty unfolding, and what a great cast of characters – but makes me terrified to grow old. The Lifeboat and Lifeline were interesting to me, in terms of featuring characters who aren’t super “likable.” Rogan’s heroine is not your typical brave, bold mover and shaker – she wants approval, she wants to follow the rules, she looks to others to lead. By the end of Rowell’s novel, of course I wanted the protagonist and her husband to reconcile and end up together – it makes for a very satisfying story. But I also wasn’t sure I understood why they did. Admittedly, I’m a very-newlywed, and we haven’t had to deal with any Big Shit in our relationship / marriage. Still, if I said to my husband, “Here is what I need out of our relationship,” and he said to me, “I love you, but I can’t make any promises and I’m probably not going to try very hard,” I would have to do some real thinking about whether or not to continue that relationship. I don’t know that I would. (Hats off to Rowell, obviously – look how invested I am in the characters, even after the novel’s ended!)