The Public Admission

I admitted that I’m a writer today.  To an author.  Face-to-face.

It was more difficult than it should have been.

I know the lady—she’s a local historian who does her research in our library.  Many of her books are in our library as research materials—I’ve cited her I don’t know how many times.  She and I became close while she was writing her first historical fiction, a children’s book centering on the construction of the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi.  In fact, she asked me to beta it,* which was a serious honor.

Somehow, I never told her that I wrote, too.  I guess I didn’t want to look like the wannabe I am—or one of those people who goes up to authors and drawls, “You know, I thought about writing a book , too.”

The author came in today to gather some basic information for her next project, and since I haven’t seen her for a while, she stopped at the desk so we could catch up.

She asked after the kids and I bragged on them a little and asked how her family was, and so on.  And then she said:

“So, I hear you’re writing a book.  [A  mutual friend]** told me.”

“Uh . . . Yes?”

“Great!  What’s it about?”

“Uh . . . Crime fiction? Sort of?”

“Oh?  What’s it about?”

“Uh . . . ”

I answered all her questions with questions, as if it was a pop quiz and I wasn’t quite sure of the answers. 

Did I think she would secretly roll her eyes?  Patronize me?  Or turn on me with rabid scorn, this nice woman who probably doesn’t read in my genre, but who wouldn’t  think less of me for writing in it.

What was the matter with me? 

I’ve written so many posts about Pigeon that the majority of my five regular readers can recite  the premise along with me, and at least two of you have read most of it.  I’ve scattered the news all over the Internet—on the blogs of agents and editors for Pete’s sake:***

I write.

I’m writing a book.

I’m writing a book about (say it with me) a group of reformed ex-cons who are searching for the family of their boss and mentor, a former con-man himself, who needs a bone marrow transplant.^

I’m almost done with the first draft, I have this idea that it might not totally suck, and I might not stuff this one in a drawer after I type The End.

In fact, I hope to have it revised and polished by September, in time for a mystery convention during which I may practice pitching.^^

But I couldn’t seem to say any of this like I meant it, not to this woman, my friend, the author, who was standing three feet away.  Looking at me.

She seemed puzzled at my doubt at first, but then smiled.  “I knew you were a writer when I read your notes on my manuscript.”  She patted my hand.  “Keep going.  I’m sure it will be terrific.”

“Uh . . .I will,” I said, finally relaxing.  “I only have a little left on my first draft.  I think . . . I think it might be good.  You know, for a first draft.”

“Really?” she said, then leaned over the desk a little.  “How can you tell when you’re getting near the end of your first draft?  I have a terrible time finishing, even with an outline.  I always want to know what comes next . . . ”

So we talked shop a little, she and I. 

Writer to writer.


*It’s in the hands of her editor right now, so I’ll give more details when it’s cleared for takeoff.

**Who used to belong to my old writing group and is the only one I still see on a regular basis.

***Though not many authors, it’s true, unless they’ve blogstalked me back here (and isn’t that an awesome word?).

^Yes, I know.  I’m working on it.

^^Although I’m still going if it it isn’t and I decide not to, because Bouchercon is supposed to be a blast.

18 thoughts on “The Public Admission

  1. That makes it seem so REAL!
    (not that your hours and days etc of working really hard were less, real, but there’s something about discussing something out loud with a relatively unrelated person…)
    seems like a step to me.

  2. Very good! This made me smile. I definitely have a hard time admitting I write. At least what you write about sounds like you’re an intelligent woman with an adorable quirk for cons. I sound like the Twilight reject who got a little too much Anita Blake before she went to Anime Weekend Atlanta. 🙂

    Maybe in this case “practice makes perfect” still works. This was your first time. There will be others. And just as surely as I tell you that Pigeon is way more than a good first draft (it’s -excellent-), you’ll get better at (demurely) strutting your stuff.

    You’ve got such good stuff to strut, girl.

    • No, you sound like a strong woman who writes strong female characters who do what they need to do under adverse (and often very frightening) conditions, while learning things about themseles all along the way. And your worldbuildings rocks. So there.

      And thanks, Lisa. 🙂

  3. I felt like a proud mama when I got to the end and you said you discussed shop, writer to writer.
    You should be proud of yourself. You’ve worked many, many hours to earn the right to say that, my friend.

  4. Sarah, this is a wonderful post. First, as a story – the beginning hooks us and the line at the end brings it full circle, but the middle is actually the best part -I’m praying that this author, who seems so kind, will see past your nervousness and “get” that of course Pigeon is good – I can see you behind the desk in the library and the author on the other side and it’s like a little dance – you’re backing away a bit and she’s stretching, stretching, trying to reach you and then she does. Ahhh. The reader can relax and enjoy the moment with you now. Great writing.

    And of course, it’s also wonderful because at the end you accept yourself as a writer, which you clearly are.

    Plus blogstalked IS an awesome word.

  5. Oh, do I get this. As an actor, it was impossible for me to admit my profession. I felt such judgment in people. I don’t have that kind of insecurity when it comes to my writing or photography. I think, in part, because I’ve accepted my imperfections. I’ve finally come to terms with the idea that it’s okay to be where I’m at.

    I don’t know which makes me smile more, that you admitted what you are and connected with a fellow writer or that you think your first draft is good. Happiness all around, for sure!

  6. I think you just need some practice getting up in front of the group and saying, “Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m a writer.”

    To which we all reply, “Hi, Sarah.”

    Seriously, though, it’s difficult to consider yourself a peer of someone you admire. Just keep practicing. It’ll get easier.

  7. I, too, didn’t want to look like one of those wannabe writers who says, “Oh, I’m totally a writer, too! Just got a sweet deal from PublishAmerica! Want to read my book and then give it to your editor?? Kthanks!”

    I kind of hate to admit this, but it became easier to out myself as a writer once I learned my story collection would be published. That’s pretty shameful, but it’s true that it gives me some validity, at least in my own mind.

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