Please welcome guest author Jacqueline S. Hawley to the Cafe!
I have heard people say ‘I have been writing since I was three years old’. At three I am sure I was blowing spit bubbles and still eating dirt. Even at an early age coloring my homework was a chore. Before that I ‘played’ school with paper and fake scribbles I likened to cursive writing. (Cursive is the proper name for script which is/was a standard means of signing your name. Which is now more of an ‘art form’ no longer taught in school. But I am four sentences in and somehow distracting myself. The mind of a writer is a playground of chaos, and poor grammar)
(Undigressing <— poetic license: making up words which other writers TOTALLY know the meaning) My first attempt at a full length novel… happened to be my first published novel. And it was a lot like putting all my favorite words into a semblance of order to make sentences and seeing my cursive writing on every surface: colored paper; recycled paper; paper bags and my favorite napkins from the big nice ones with the fake lace pressed around the edges to the hard brown paper stuff on the big rolls. I kept writing and writing and writing for I think three years with no end in sight. Not because the story was so amazing but because I really like words.
One day a co-worker asked ‘what’s that?’ I answered, ‘my book. I am writing a book.’
‘…. Blah, bla, blase, do, ba, di, do…’
Months passed and we would discuss my ‘book’ like it was work gospel or gossip or real people. She knew as much about this ‘book’ as I did. One day she comes to me and explains that one of the contracted employees was dating a publishing editor. The ‘book’ was mentioned in October 2004. I had just bought a fixer upper of a house that I didn’t know was a fixer upper along with the guy I was dating (I didn’t by the house with him I mean he was a fixer upper like the house). By March 2005 my fixer upper caught fire and my ‘boyfriend’ was well into a drug habit, stole $800.00 from my bank account, had sex in my car with his ex, he pawned my jewelry, broke into my rental home stole the new electronics and all my jewelry. In addition to several arrests and 3 failed attempts in rehab. By September of 2005 I was back in my rebuilt home awaiting a back order of new furnishings, which never arrived. By my February 2006 birthday I had the nerve to print up 500 single spaced pages of my ‘book’ and submit it to my co-workers, friends, ‘editor’ girlfriend, who I did not think was a real person. But after the year I had had I earned a little ray of hope and this was it.
Writing was my land of the free. My escapism is reading, listening to music, watching television and movies. But my writing was my salvation. A place to stuff my confusion, anger, hostility, wonder, hatred, love, lust, envy, dreams, sadness even my revenge. Each page gave me the control I was rapidly losing in reality. On the pages of my writing I WAS GOD! The characters lived and I wrote their lives and it went way off the rails as my life spun and spun and spun more and more out of control. It went from a contemporary, interracial, erotic, romance to a season of ER or Grey’s Anatomy with court tv, the 1st 48, Breaking Bad and some ‘B’ horror movie smashed together. There was a mudslide, a few deaths, a baby born to a dying mother, grieving Godparents, no grandparents or other family (have no clue where my mind was) plugs needed to be pulled, an outrageous will with the dumbest requests and still no reasonable ending in sight.
I managed to find some semblance of normalcy and backed up, tossed most of the irrational movie mayhem that needed stunt actors and took a different path. I mean I was God right? I could do anything and it was time to burn and flood stuff. I gave the characters less stressful options for living and they were able to find ‘a happy for now ending’. This is the draft I ultimately submitted one late Friday afternoon. Pages 501 to -0000 were on the cutting room floor, to be seen only by me.
That Sunday while in the laundromat feeling at peace watching kids push one another in the carts and clothes going round in the machines when my cellphone rings and I am blindsided by a call from the editor from Kensington Publishing House (a company I’d NEVER heard of). She spoke with flattering enthusiasm. And she spoke to me like the neophyte I was: ‘first it is a manuscript NOT a book or novel’. ‘NEVER submit 500 pages of single spaced ANYTHING’. From there we discussed the book… ahem… manuscript as if they were real people. She respected them as if we were talking about real people. I folded laundry went home and began the edits. Another 250 pages gone by the time I received her four page single spaced edits and I was beginning to believe she was really an editor from a major publisher.
I had no problem making the requested changes and I could do it while speaking to her on the phone. For me the characters had served their purpose. They had been my friends and confidants for the last five years. They were no longer living breathing people they were a fond memory that transformed into a paycheck that someone else bought from me. I did have one major issue: my heroine (who radically resembled me with a much better wardrobe) seemed irredeemable. She needed softening up. It took three additional scenes and 2 major epiphanies. She was still strong, tough, and rather unlikeable. My editor and readers said as much. But she was me at that point in my life and I hadn’t yet made the BIG change and couldn’t accurately and authentically help my character live thru one. Luckily the hero was able to counteract some of the piss & vinegar and love her despite that. And the readers loved that about them.
Later my editor extraordinaire gifted me with Steven King’s book ‘On Writing’. The piece of advice most precious to me was don’t be afraid to kill your beauties. He may have said babies or some such thing but remember my love is the beauty of written words. For each pretty word selected that creates exquisite phrases and builds amazing lines that grow into gorgeous paragraphs and give birth to these beautiful images that become steadfast novels in my mind it begins with the swirl of each cursive letter.
I start out writing for myself. My first imaginary audience. I am also an organic writer. One page at a time with no clue when I start where it will end. There are no index cards, no notes or outlines to direct me. I have nothing but my imagination as a guide. And I enjoy the journey as much as the destination; and those things that don’t make it to the end are still with me. Still beautiful, lying on the cutting room floor…
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‘Come With Me’ & ‘If You Were Mine’, Contemporary, Interracial, Erotic, Romance Novels.
Performed at African Poetry Arts Center, Brownstone Books, TR8FM Radio. Member of Hot & Bothered Writing Group.
Greatest Achievement: 23 year old daughter Sparkie graduated 2016 with Masters: 14 yr old Pebbles going to a Culinary High School program!