Short stories are babies, born from an idea so tiny they’re sometimes barely words or concepts.
Novels are like a child that ran away from home at 16 – at that point with the arguing and the fighting and simple disobedience, you were sick of looking at each other anyway. One final door slam and it was gone, joining the circus, dating hipster musicians, getting bits and pieces passed all over the web like a bowl of skittles at a rave. Then one day while you’re rooting through old clothes you find it sleeping in the back of the closet, wrapped up in a worn blue binder. You take it out, grab a cup of coffee to reminisce over old times, and that’s when you see you see how she’s grown and not at all like you remember.
In the current editing process, I have such a novel. I have fond memories of writing it – late nights, booze, SD cards and jumpdrives, but there is so much I simply don’t remember – and this is a good thing. It means I can go in and make new changes without feeling overly attached to the words, like telling your prodigal child that the dress she’s wearing is cute, but kinda slutty so here’s a jacket and some pants.
I spent the better part of last year looking for an editor to assist with polishing a novel. I was a single parent, suddenly left raising a child on my own with few resources, other than friends and family. As well meaning as friends were, I knew this child needed a strong mentor, preferably someone that wouldn’t spend my money on booze and ponies while neglecting this child. It’s a harder search than you might imagine. I sifted through recommendations, made some inquiries, and now this novel is in sort of a boarding school, being polished and sanded and cleaned up for debut. Bad habits are being broken, that awkward clunky walk is being refined, and she’s losing some weight. I get updates, which I appreciate, and I even get to see glimpses of how my child will look when she’s all grown up.
I’m not blameless in how this child was initially raised. We were reckless, and naïve and terribly unclear of the process. Fumbling at words in the dark, producing long phrases that elicit awed gasps and when it was over there were sated sighs and unrealistic expectations. What we basically did, my collaborator and I, was set this baby in the backyard and let it be raised by whatever wandered by, and as we lead fairly solitary lives, it sat on the stoop and ate dirt. When the father left to raise his own children, I was left with an unwieldy, leggy beast that most everyone looked upon with some awe and a few kind words, but a mother knows patronizing subtext when she sees it. I want her to be a respectable member of society.
And the best news (I’m not ashamed to tell you in the least) I think she’s pregnant. When you have a novel who is as beautiful and talented as this one, it’s the best possible news. That there may be at least one more, probably two, is exciting. So while this one if off getting her papers and recognition, I’ll be tending to the new little ones, raising them right most likely on my own, (I really can’t see that far ahead) with care and attention, and I’ll probably still send them off to the matron for polish.
This may just be me giddy about the new year, barely three days old, but I’m excited.
What are your babies up to?