Most of my friends and acquaintances know that I ran away with an Italian circus in my twenties, and some know that I have been writing stories about those years for some time. A few know that my memoir, Love in the Elephant Tent, will be published in May of this year. But not many know quite what has gone into that process.
I began to compile stories from my under-the-big-top adventures in 1994, a few years after I returned to the US from Italy. It was slow going. I mean slow. Perhaps that's to be expected when you run off with the Grateful Dead and then a circus in lieu of college. By the time I helped form a local writers critique group in 1998, I had but a handful of chapters completed, none of which would make it into the final book. Over the next five years, I worked my way through the remaining story -- laughter and tears, joy and frustration, and an incredibly patient writers group were regular and indispensable companions. By late 2003, I held a completed first draft in my hands -- all 135,000 words of it. Another 5 years would pass as I hacked away at revisions and shepherded some 40,000 words, hundreds of hours of work, into the recycling bin.
In 2009, it was time to find an agent, and I did. Then it time was to find a publisher. And that came too, but that's another story, another post. For now I'll just say that it took another 6 years. In spring of 2014, I had a contract and a publishing date set for May, 2015.
A publishing date. A specific point in time when others -- anyone -- could peer into my heart simply by opening a book. Oh dear.
The reality of sending such personal stories of a crazy and tumultuous period of my life out into the world makes me catch my breath -- especially after hanging onto them for 20-plus years. But I do have to let go, see if this book will find its way into readers' hands and hearts and bookshelves. So many concerns: Will anyone connect with my story? See themselves and their experiences in my own? Did I represent my feelings accurately? Treat others fairly? Spell foreign words correctly? And what about those damn commas?
I received my Advance Reading Copy in late December. I pored over it and adorned it with so many sticky notes that it looked like a 1920s flapper dress. And then I went back and pondered my notes, one by one. Fixing and unfixing passages. Moving commas. Correcting those foreign words. Checking accents, dates, and weights. And then I unstuck those sticky notes, piled them up in a corner of my desk. They reminded me of confetti.
And it is time to celebrate. The book may not be perfect, but that's okay. I'm not perfect either, but I seem to be making my way through this world nonetheless. Not everybody "gets" me, so I won't expect everyone to "get" my book. But some will, and I will be thankful for that.
It's time for me to let go. Fare thee well, my friend.