Thursday, March 6, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

When I exited Johnson, Vermont, at 5 a.m. the morning of February 29, it was -21 degrees Farenheit with three feet (at least) of snow on the ground. No lie: the boogers literally froze in my nose, a most disconcerting feeling. Now, I'm back in the mountains of Western North Carolina, it's in the upper 40s, and the daffodils and crocuses (crocusi?) are in bloom. Insanity.

Being home is a study in transition. I'm happy beyond belief to be back with Stuart and Scout, and in our awesome little cottage in our awesome little town. I'm trying to hold on to the feeling of being energized by writing and my hopeful career, while also staying focused on finding a job. Brevard College has asked me to teach again in the Fall, and so I need to find something--at least--I can do, and make money at, until then.

Stuart was laid off in late February, and has been diligently searching for a new job since. He's had several interviews, made several good connections, but no luck yet. We're hopeful. If we don't have to, we don't want to move. But right now, we're ready for anything. Any company would be lucky to have him: he's brilliant, creative, hard-working, insightful, experienced, talented and loyal, to say the least.

As for me, I'm working right now on a novel I began just before leaving for the Vermont Studio Center. While there, I completed about four chapters--VERY rough draft--of it, and even had a manuscript critique with two "real" writers: Dave King, author of the bestselling novel The Ha-Ha; and Tracy Daughtery, author of What Falls Away and Axeman's Jazz, among others. If you're interested, read on:

At the urging of my agent, I started work on an antebellum novel, set in the 1850s in Charleston, S.C., during the cotton boom of the period. It centers on an eighteen year-old girl named Josephine Scott, "Jo" to friends and family. Jo is a member of a wealthy, old Charlestonian family: her father's a cotton broker and her mother an heiress and socialite. She's got one older brother, Ben, who's a wayward Yale student and young-man-about-town. So far, other characters include Jo's grandfather, an old rabble rouser and veteran of the War of 1812; Jo's uncle, Boone, an Indian agent with the Comanches in Texas, who's back in Charleston for mysterious reasons; Mary Manigault, Jo's childhood friend; Sullivan Calhoun, a nephew of John C.'s, best friend of Ben's and a romantic interest for Jo; and several other members of Charleston society, both black and white. Jo and her family are actually descendents of Quinn and Jack Wolf, the protagonists of my first novel.

Like I said, the chapters I've written are very rough. I'm definitely still in the beginning stages. The research has been a blast, and very easy--much different than research for my first novel, set almost 100 years earlier. I'm a little skeptical that the world needs another Civil War era novel, but my agent thinks differently: he says Civil War fiction never goes out of style. So we'll see.

So far, no luck with publishers on my first novel. My agent is now in California for a few months, and before he left to go there he breakfasted and lunched with editors, passing the manuscript to them. I figure we should be hearing from that round of submissions in a few months. The entire process is daunting, tedious, and lacking any good odds, but such is life.

As promised, attached are photos from my last days at the Vermont Studio Center, including a few of us playing in the snow. Good times were had by all.