The first scenes of what is today, Weather Vane, were flaw-full. My word. I read somewhere recently that most authors guard the secret hope that their first draft will be publication-ready, with perhaps a few changes, such as a comma or the capitalization of a place name. I confess. But I wanted to make sure. I was humble. I was brave. Let me have it.
Ouch. You mean this thing I love requires work? I sat listening to what Anna had to say, and as soon as she would make an observation or a comment, I would SEE it and understand. If I am writing in first person limited point-of-view and waxing all poetic about the sand and the sea and the driving wind one moment, I can't suddenly say that he thought it wise to keep his "bony butt" glued to the chair. And it wasn't likely that any literary editor, agent or publisher would go for the protagonist carrying his feisty wife out of the storm because her sarong blew off in the wind, and then make nice love to her in the bedroom of a Jamaican villa, and be ever so grateful. Hmmm. A little too romance novel-ly, perhaps? Anna carried on, stopping to sip a little wine and check in with me to see if I was all right, from time to time. "Oh I'm fine," I assured her. She was right, after all. I thanked her, sure that I would just go home and fix everything up in a jiffy.
When I pulled up the file the next day, and perused Anna's notes, my shoulders fell. I stared at the screen, looked out the window, stood up and decided it was time to sweep the floor. And do a few loads of laundry. And make a sandwich. You get the picture. I didn't have a clue how to fix these things. A long walk might help. Two months later, I hadn't changed a word.
I was continuing to write, however. My short stories were making the rounds of various contests. Anna suggested I connect with someone who was a writer by trade. She pointed me toward Sue Lynn Reynolds. And Ruth Walker. Great suggestions. I took a short workshop with Ruth and then a longer day-long retreat workshop with Sue, called Sanctuary Sunday. This was a day of prompts and open writing, with an opportunity to read at the end of the day.
At six o'clock, I got in my car and burst into tears. I thought, "I can do this," with a joyous but oddly painful certainty. Waiting for me in my inbox when I returned home was a very warm and encouraging message from Sue. So warm and encouraging that I could barely read it through my grateful tears.
A few weeks later, I attended a weekend retreat with Ruth Walker and Gywnn Sheltma, called Turning Leaves. And this was, indeed, a turning in the road on which I was now a dedicated traveler. I read my rewritten wild sex scene on the Saturday evening, and it didn't seem so flaw-full now. The participants laughed, sat forward on their chairs, and when I finished, one woman yelled a warning to my protagonist to "Run away, Simon!" My characters were taking on flesh.