“How well-dressed you are!” they say;
“That poem looks so good on you!”
That poems aren’t my clothes,
But my bones
– Ana Blandiana
(From the poem,”Unaware” — Translated from Romanian)
I get emails from time to time asking me when my next book will come out, though less and less as time goes on. It’s a hard question to answer, but here’s my best shot.
If you’re lucky – and I am – you have a passion that is central to your identity. It frames who you are. Maybe for you, it’s art or medicine, parenting or leadership. For me, of course, that passion is writing. I hardly know what I think or feel until I’ve found a way to express it in writing.
But having a passion that is also a commercial venture can get confusing. About the time that The Language of Sparrows was published, I went through some particularly rough times. I won’t bore you with the gory details other than to say it started with divorce and went downhill from there. As a result I found myself unable to write. At least, that’s what I told myself. Looking back though, I can see that wasn’t accurate. Writing isn’t decoration for me, but my bones, as Blandiana said so well. Give me a broken pencil and the back of an envelope and I’ll write. What I meant was that I wasn’t focused enough to write another novel for publication right then, which frankly takes an incredible amount of focus.
I spent a fair amount of time fighting the obvious. I was convinced I had to write that next novel, because I was published now and needed to build a career. Until at last I surrendered to the blank page and stopped writing altogether. What a painful time that was, and as much from not writing as from the events themselves. Without words I was emotionally parched.
It took about a year for me to rediscover the kinds of writing that didn’t have anything to do with commercial success or even necessarily a readership. It was just journaling and poetry and articles only my friends were interested in. That kind of writing helped me rediscover the long forgotten happiness of stringing words together for the fun of it, of saying exactly what I meant and saying it well.
It also helped me put my life back together. Am I ready to write another novel now? Yes, emotionally. I’m longing to get back to fleshing out characters and plot lines. But the reality is I’m a single mom now with a full time job. I’m also spending more time than I used to actually living. So while I’m finally capable of writing a novel, it’s more of a juggling act than it used to be.
Keeping all of the balls spinning in the air is okay with me though, as long as one of the balls gets to be writing. When will that next novel come together? I can’t say. I’m hoping to complete one next year, but I’m an idealist and life is always more complex than I ever anticipate. So it may not happen that way. But I know this: it will almost certainly come together in time. Writing is a happy addiction, as far as I’m concerned, one that sets my world to rights. And fiction is the truest kind of writing for me. What I’m saying is that it will happen, so stay tuned for that next novel. And for those of you who are still following, thank you for your incredible patience.
I hope you do write more novels Rachel. I read Language of Sparrows a few years ago and now am using it for a summer book club. I offered to suggest the book for June and lead the discussion and chose your book. That means I reread it and then reread it again taking notes for discussion. (I did not like the questions at the end of the Kindle book which were probably not written by you.) I wanted to discuss where your title came from and finally found the paragraph in the last chapter. (I would say that all three of the main characters were “stuck” in one way of seeing things. Looking forward to your next novel. Jayne
Thanks for your encouragement, Jayne. It warms my heart to hear your book club is reading my book so many years later. I am still writing, but have had to accept that it will probably be a couple of years before I can really throw myself into it to come up with a novel. (My youngest will leave for college and I will be able to retire if I choose at that time). In the meantime, I hope your club enjoys the book.
Well, it has been two years since this post, and I, for one, am looking forward to that next book. I am also the co-owner of a relatively new indie publishing house, too, for what it is worth – I bought into the press that published my wife’s first book of poetry – and as the assistant editor, I can say with some conviction that Shack Simple Press is always looking for a good new book. You’ve already written one, and I’m pretty sure you have a few more in you.
Do stay in touch and let us all know how the writing is going. Stories matter. Books matter. And without authors, they just don’t happen.
Don’t give up.
Fr. Cassian Sibley
Thanks, Cassian. Running a small press – that’s quite an undertaking! I’ll keep you in mind. Now that I’ve retired, I’m aiming to finish the first draft in a few months.
Good to hear. Do consider us (Shack Simple Press, LLC) when the time comes. For the record, and so you know, we are a profit-share indie publishing company. The author puts up no money of their own for publication, but no one makes money until we break even on the printing costs of the first hard copy print run and the costs of setting up a POD and ebook through IngramSpark and a ebook through Amazon (and possibly an audiobook through ACX) – but after that minimum is reached the author gets 25 to 33% (by prior agreement) of all profit in perpetuity off of the sales of the book as royalty. Then, after two years, if the author desires to go it alone, all rights revert to the author for future re-publications. We are very committed to producing an attractive physical product. We like well printed and well-designed books that feel good in the hand and are very readable.
In any case, I think you’ll find that it works out much better for most authors than the standard 7 to 15 percent flat-rate royalty contract. In any case, do think about us when the time comes, and we’ll give you a fast turn around thumbs up or thumbs down on the manuscript so you can move on to another publisher if we don’t think it will work for us, or if you don’t like our offer.
By the way, and for the record – I certainly would have published your first book!