Many, many moons ago, in an apartment not so far away, I decided to write my first novel.
I had all the things a brash young writer needs to write a breakthrough novel; ignorance, ambition, drive, supportive friends, and the best of modern technology.
Maybe a little more modern than THIS.
I did have a computer, and my dear friend Joyce was kind enough to loan me her printer. Oh, those were the days, figuring out to line up the paper just so, so that it fed nicely into the printer without jamming the spokes, then later, separating it at the perforations.
Joyce also wrote poetry, and she was among the first people to cheer me on in my writing journey.
Eventually, I invested in my own printer, and returned the Oki to Joyce, after having printed out untold copies and revisions of my shitty first novel.
It was an erotic romance. Did I study the craft, reading lots of other authors in the field?
Of course not, lest that taint my genius.
Did I know anything about storytelling, character arc, plotting?
Of course not. All I did was write as many explicit sex scenes as possible, stapled together around a crappy story.
And within a few months of realizing that what I had produced was… a lot of wasted paper, (sorry, trees!) I shelved it. Occasionally I would consider going in and harvesting some of the good bits – surely there were some.
But I was too wrapped up in the next (crappy) book I was writing, and then the one after that, and so on, to ever get back to Balancing Act. Joyce got married to another friend, Wes, who heard a “call” to the Lutheran ministry. I stood up with them at their wedding, and in my memoir, I wrote about sitting in the pews at his ordination, enjoying the performance of the bell ringers’ choir, until I got bored and started thinking about sex.
I did almost go out with one of the bell ringers, but I won’t tell that story here (buy the book!). Wes’s first call was to Montana, so they packed up their families (they each had two teen boys) and their furniture and office stuff and headed up to Big Sky country. After a few years there, they went to a small Wisconsin town, and most recently, they moved to Colorado where Joyce still has family.
I got to see them during a quick visit to California in 2016. We reconnected as if we hadn’t been separated all these years.
And then the other day, my phone buzzed. It was Joyce – and she had a funny story to tell me, could she call? Yes, yes YES!
So they were en route, two hour drive, to see Joyce’s paternal uncle Ralph, and his wife, who live in a nursing home. Joyce’s father, now deceased, had also attempted a novel, a Western, back in the day. She thought that Uncle Ralph might enjoy reading it, so she dug into the boxes she’d been hauling across multi states for decades, took it to FedEx/Kinko’s, and had them bind it into a real book for him.
You can smell where this is going, can’t you?
Wes is driving, and Joyce decides to flip through the book, read a few pages.
It was not a Western, though riding cowgirl might have occurred in it a few times.
Yes, kids, that totally forgotten, terrible first novel, that never should have seen the light of day, is now a bound book.
Me: “Oh, no!”
Joyce, being diplomatic: “Well, it’s not the kind of thing I usually read, but for what it is, it’s not bad.”
Me: “Oh, I’m pretty sure it is. But thank you for saying that.”
We are all of us howling at the idea that my hot erotic mess might accidentally have made it into 90-something Uncle Ralph’s bewildered hands. Giddyap!
Not that people of that generation aren’t still mightily interested in sex, at least some of them are. But that was not the intent. I hadn’t remembered giving a copy of Balancing Act to Joyce, and she hadn’t remembered getting one, but clearly, she did.
And now she has mailed me the bound copy, because it’s not like she can return it. She asked them to make a book out of the thing, they made a book out of the thing.
Don’t squat with your spurs on, folks, and do invest not only in your own printer, but in your own SHREDDER.
And as this post goes public, Joyce’s birthday was YESTERDAY. She is Beautiful years old.
Maybe I should write her a little book.
Do you have a tale of a terrible first manuscript?
Or technical issues?