February 16

If one more person asks me how my book is coming along, I’m going to eat an entire Giuseppe’s pizza and toss myself from the top of Bowman’s Tower, a well-traveled landmark and tourist spot close to my house.

Although, I have only myself to blame, given that when I finally landed an agent 18 months ago (after a rejection fest as colorful as Mardi Gras), I blabbed. To my friends. To the woman who took my dirty sweaters at the cleaners. To the nice man at the park begging for spare change and bourbon.

Back then, I figured it was a mere sneeze and a cough to an author’s tour, a movie deal, and a well-deserved stint on the Katie show

Well, here I am, 72 weeks, four hours, 20 minutes, three minor and one major revision later, listening to my friends and family heckle me on how long it’s taking me to revise, sell, and publish my first novel.

“How’s the book coming,” my dad asks one morning, over an egg white omelet and hash browns at Old Country Buffet.

“Yeah, okay, slow but steady.” I take a sip of my orange juice and find a hair.

“Uh huh.” Pause. “You know, Aunt Betsy’s cousin’s nephew’s uncle by marriage? His son’s step-sister just wrote a book about beavers. You know, beavers?”

“I know beavers, Dad.”

“Well, I think she got an agent, a publisher, and a two-book deal? No, wait… a three-book deal.” Pause. “I also think the Discovery Channel is interested. But who knows, Aunt Betsy can be pathological.” He winks at me.

“Well good for her.” Tramp.

“Hey,” he says, using his own mouth as a diagram, “you’ve got a piece of spinach on your tooth.”

Last week, I was shopping with my best friend Lorrie. We were standing at the cash register at Chico’s, where I was preparing to spend $320 dollars I don’t have, when she says “You’ve been working on that darn novel for six months now. When are you going to be finished? My friends want to read it.”

“You wrote a novel?” the salesgirl asks. “What’s it about?” Beats me, I think. “When will it be out?” She fires off the questions like she’s at target practice.

“Soon,” I say.

“She’s been saying that for, like, ever.” Lorrie turns to me. “Why is it taking so long?”

She has no idea what it takes to write a novel. She has no idea that writing is a business and not just about the artist in your belly talking to you day and night until you stop sleeping. The voice tells you how much you suck and how you’re never gonna make it. Or, if you finally do get it (an agent and a publisher), one or both of them will get hit in the head with an errant golf ball or some equally random accident and drop dead.

Which is why I’m a writer in crisis.

I’m a woman who, just one year ago, reached mid life and panicked like somebody glued her to a New Jersey Transit train. I chucked a corporate job, a city (Chicago, where I lived for 20 years), an 11-year relationship that after years of kidding myself I finally conceded was going nowhere, and a steady paycheck — all to be closer to my family who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (big mistake, the time suckers) and become the literary JLo.

Yet here I sit. Alone with my computer, my Golden Retriever Sophie, and a load of unfinished business. I wrote the first draft of this manuscript three years ago and am not happy about having to rewrite it now. My agent wants me to make the character less pathetic so readers won’t get depressed. What do READERS have to do with anything anyway?

I think about these things every day, when I stare into the abyss of my novel and wonder why I can’t get past page 153.

Sometimes these thoughts paralyze me. Other times it’s just life that gets in the way. Like the fact that my dog and father just had cancer simultaneously, which needless to say, was distracting. I need to exercise, keep food in the refrigerator, and toilet paper on the roll, unless I want to wipe myself with Advil. I need to maintain relationships with friends, now in two states. I’m FINALLY getting married for the first time at 43. And that wedding isn’t going to plan itself.

I have to work for a living because being creative just doesn’t pay the mortgage.

At least, not yet.

So, that’s this story. There are others. My hope is that, at some point, I can get past page 153 and find myself on a book tour, promoting the first of many works—novels or otherwise. That some high-level publisher somewhere shows up on my front door step with a wad of money.

And when they do, I hope to be ready.

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