Endings, Beginnings

by Joni Abilene

A few weeks ago I received a rejection for my short story collection Woodsocket ’79. The manuscript spent ten months in final deliberations with a small press in San Francisco and by  the summer was among a handful the press felt deserved to be published. In the end only two could make it, and unfortunately mine wasn’t among the two. I was depressed when I heard the news, but extremely proud to have been considered. I’ve only submitted the book to three publishers: one rejected it with a very long letter of praise, another only took novelettes and wanted me to condense the story down to the one central character, and the last was the press in San Fran. So, now I’m trying to decide what to do. Send it out again? Wait another ten months? I’m not sure I want to go through that whole scene again. But I haven’t given up on the novel just yet.

As for my current novel, I completed edits and have now begun to ponder the future. Then comes querying. I have a love/hate relationship with the whole thing. Most of us, I feel, itch to query, but actually doing so is a big wake up. Is anyone really going to want this book? Did I write something just outside the lines of mainstream? On one side, I have a story of a mother who is suffocated in her marriage, has never had an orgasm, and who endures martial rape in the first section of the book. On the other side, I have a vulgar young man with a slightly sexist viewpoint. He cusses, relates everything to body parts, and is generally an asshole. But a lovable asshole. I wrote what I know and love, but that doesn’t mean the world will love it. I wrote something high-concept, but common. Once a writer friend, upon reading the first chapter for critique said, “This is good. You are a good writer.” Of course then she proceeded to tell me that parts that weren’t good (of which I am very grateful). My hopes are that this novel will do well and see a bit of success. I don’t want to think about it that much, I just want to move on and write the next. This week I’ve already written down two ideas for novels, and there’s a backlist of others that need attention. I don’t need all that clogging up my brain. I just want to write.

Plus, I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time since high school. The good news is, I don’t have top write a report, the bad news is I keep wondering if Capote wrote it.