Invitations

The good professor has arranged a book reading and sharing at the college. In two weeks, a Friday, so there won’t be a lot of people on campus. Even so, plenty of time to worry about the event. The mailing card flyers are beautiful, but they remind me of my fears about presenting. My dilemma is the peculiar tension I am feeling between my immense satisfaction in having shepherded the book to publication and the real difficulty I know I will have in explaining Elizabeth’s story and how it all came to be. And the book’s reflection of fact and fiction. I mean, it’s Elizabeth’s story and that could be interpreted in several ways: it’s either my telling about Elizabeth, or her own telling about herself, or maybe even her telling a story, an extended fib, to cover sins and weaknesses and fears. Or a little bit of each.

And then there’s the book’s plot, if one could call it that. One or more of the characters in the story claim there is no plot, that it’s simply a tale of two persons carrying manuscript or book as they travel, telling pieces along the way, to people with their own very separate agendas and concerns. That shares and builds separate narratives outside Elizabeth’s original fictional memoir set in familiar geography and biography. With the added complication of things which contradict truth or likelihood.

Then there’s the issue of where this story came from. Almost three years ago Kathryn in California emailed a request to fill out a high school fiftieth reunion survey, even though she wouldn’t attend the reunion. I had never spoken with her at school, a boarding school in Pennsylvania similar to the one Elizabeth attended.. I still haven’t spoken with Kathryn, but in an early email from her she admitted to having “hidden” at the school. I too had “hidden” at the school, but behind a façade of activity and involvement. Kathryn was writing a story about a young woman named Elizabeth, but had neglected to write about her for quite a while. I begged Kathryn to be in touch with her Elizabeth, who I said had told me she was afraid Kathryn had forgotten her. A plaintive cry which echoed in my heart, and resulted in my own fabrication of two girls’ relationship at a school similar to mine. Elizabeth and Kathryn. And Elizabeth’s Story.

 

UPS and Final Proof Copy

Yesterday was all about UPS and the lost proof! More accurately, it was all about waiting. Knowing the UPS truck would pull into the drive lane and dogs would bark, defending the household from any encroachment. Nothing, until a ding on the email account that the book had been delivered. I had been checking tracking all day. It was here, except I had not heard UPS nor postal delivery, which sometimes includes UPS packages, off-loaded at the post office. Unlikely in this case, but who knows? The notice said that the package had been left on the porch. My porch is enclosed and that’s where I had spent the previous two or three hours, waiting. My ham shack, computer, writing space, and quiet retreat. Except for the dogs whenever anyone visited. No book. I checked the garage. No book. I drove to the mailbox. The first time, no mail. The second time, an hour later, ordinary mail and of course, the obvious. No book.

I called UPS and they promised a quick resolution, or at least a call back. The first call came from South Carolina, that the package was there, in the distribution center. Double-checked the tracking number, and theirs didn’t match mine, nor the auto parts supply store return address on the package. Not my delivery.

The second call was from Tennessee and likewise the wrong thing, and finally a call from Front Royal, the caller saying she had talked with the driver and he recalled leaving the book. Clearly. On the porch. Mountain View Road. He was willing to drive back and verify it. House number 452. Our house is 432. I had never heard of other house numbers, so I drove all the way up the lane and then back. The abandoned turkey farmers’ house. A faded 452 on the end of the building and a lonely flat cardboard package on the porch. Confirmed. A book. From Amazon, South Carolina. Well, anyway. Relief on top of incredible frustration. Making it a great day, in retrospect.

I checked on the six revisions I had requested, all in place, so I clicked on “approved!” Done, and now it was actually over. The first real let-down on top of victory. Over. In the hands of other folks, fickle choices and some fun reading it here and there. Done. Something seemed to have flown away.

Proof copy on the way!

It’s the final proof copy, tracking notification came this afternoon, after a day’s delay. Elizabeth’s Story wrapped between the covers. It’s an exciting moment, first novel, lots of writing and journaling, and the story swimming in my head and heart for a couple of years. All the connections, all the life-energy, contradictions, sudden moments, and connections upon connections. I give thanks for being alive, even if in a world of distrust and tribal chants. Elizabeth wouldn’t know what to do, the threat of collapse all around. But Kathryn would. And my real-life California Kathryn does know, day to day, how to stand up for what’s most important. How to be counted. The silence is more dangerous than the threat of jack-boots. Kathryn’s translation from the German, The White Rose, tells it all. I feel some days that we are in a similar moment, a repeat of sorts, the cloud of reprisal for well-intentioned debate or well-informed Constitutional demand.

Elizabeth’s Story

I’d like to share a bit about Elizabeth and Kathryn. There’s a real-life Kathryn in California, and she wrote about a girl named Elizabeth, but Elizabeth’s Story is about another Elizabeth and her friend, another Kathryn, school-mates. The novel will make all that clear. I will share more about my beloved friend, the real Kathryn in California in another post.

First Post. Nothing is set up, but okay!

I’ve never thought of writing a blog. For a short period a few years ago, we responded to posts by Brent Kendrick, our memoir writing professor, as he did research on a pet historical writer in South Carolina. Ages ago, and since then I’ve published a memoir and in the next week or two, my first novel. Elizabeth’s Story. So here we are. The book’s title was going to have a subtitle, If Truth Be Told, but that seemed to give away too much.

This blog site will be a place to retreat and reflect. A little more public and reserved than my journal, but here we go. I can’t get many of the edit features to work, and I’m sure that will all come with time. Perhaps you know Elizabeth already, from class or from a conversation we’ve had. Or you’ve heard about her elsewhere. Or maybe she called you direct. She is alive and kicking, strung between mad about Billy adding to her story and honored that she’s finished her part. For the time being.

I hope that you are writing. And giving life to these beings, so needy and afraid. Like I used to be.