For as far back as I can remember, writing has been part of me. I penned my first short story when I was 8-years-old. It was called “Paperback” and it was about a boy in a wheelchair. My mom kept these early scribblings in a piano bench. One day she handed me a manila envelope stuffed with my early musings, and it made me smile: “What kind of kid..?”
Writing wasn’t something I gave much thought to, it was just something that I always did. Kind of like brushing your teeth or combing your hair.
The reason I now write about writing is that in January, I will release my first novel, “Coconut” Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside, which details the experiences of a Mexican-American family living in the San Fernando Valley during the 1960’s and 1970’s. It’s a bit autobiographical, but colored by broad strokes of fiction. I am excited about its debut as I first conceived of the novel when I was in my twenties. I let it gestate for 25 years before pulling it out of my head and putting it to paper.
Its completion is kind of like finally extricating an annoying little piece of steak that’s been stuck between your tooth and gum after long struggling to remove it. (Well, o.k. maybe not exactly like that, but kinda.)
Over the years I continually mulled over questions: What would “Coconut’s” characters be like? What would their behaviors be? What was I planning to accomplish by writing a novel?
As a backdrop to this “a-mull-ment,” understand that I have always loved words and English always came easy to me. In school, I could unfurl an essay as quickly as rolling out a yoga mat. I was a big fan of words, some would say “fancy” ones, but once you understand the difference between “vacillate” and “procrastinate,” it is clear how important the correct use of a word is.
I also ponder terms like “tuna fish.” It’s clear the use of “fish” is redundant, so why include it? And, don’t even get me started on the use of serial commas as it caused many a battle for me throughout my career (for the record, I do not put a comma after the “and,” in the last of a series).
Books are also an important part of the equation. When I was in grade school, I would read at least a book a week outside of class work. I loved to be taken to places beyond the realm of my existence. When I began working, the eventual long hours zapped all my concentration for things like trying to get through a book. Now, that I am “retired” I am returning to my love of reading, but I temper it with other things.
So how did I get to the point of novel preparedness?
After writing professionally for 35 years, two years ago I realized I had gotten to the point of “it’s now or never.” So I “retired.”
This new goal was frightening and daunting. Professionally, I knew business writing like nobody’s business, however fiction was a whole other ball game.
I have spent the last two years educating myself on novels and the book publishing business. It has indeed been a whole other ball game.
That said, “Coconut” finally found its way from my brain to a printer’s press. The other day my author’s copies arrived. I tore through the boxes like it was Christmas morning, and I looked at the cover and saw the image I had first envisioned so many years ago.
Now, with “Coconut’s” release, I suddenly feel quite vulnerable. What will readers think? What if I get negative reviews? What if no one reads it?
At this point, these things are not mine to decide, but I have to admit when I was proofing the galleys, a few chapters made me tear up. My hope is that others have the same reaction to the fruits of my journey which began all so long ago.
And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”