Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Live to tell....

In movies when a film wraps I think they say it’s in the can. I’m not sure what they say when a book is finally through it’s last round of edits, but that’s where I am now with EVIDENCE OF LIFE: finished with the last round of edits. Erika, my fabulous and stern guide and editor at MIRA, has given the novel her blessing. It should be a relief, and it is in many ways. I’m at work now on Book #2 and loving it. But some days I can’t concentrate on the writing for thinking of next April when EVIDENCE OF LIFE will make its debut into the world.

It’s not unlike the young women who make their society debuts. I find I’m thinking in those terms. Oh, she needs the proper dress. Oh, she should be introduced to the right people who can showcase her to the max. My attention wanders and all at once I’m not writing anymore, I’m looking at websites, I’m talking to publicists. I’m learning the steps to a whole new dance. Finally I organized notes and with them in hand I phoned Barbara, my fabulous, calm and experienced agent to ask for her guidance. I mentioned to her that where I was one year ago (an indie author with one book indie published) and where I am now (three indie books published and a sale to MIRA for two more) are such unbelievably different places. I have to remind myself that it’s real, that all this change has really happened. And I have to remind myself that it’s about the writing. And while that’s true, and foremost, it’s also about the business.

Because of what use is it to pour your heart and soul into your art, and to have others engaged in pouring their hearts and souls into the same endeavor, only to relegate it to some shelf where all it gathers, after its initial unveiling, is dust? I can play it safe or step off the ledge. I can go for the well-lighted, well-trod path or go for broke. Joseph Campbell suggests that to find the real treasure of ourselves we have to go into the forest through the dark gate, the one nobody else has opened.

What I’ve found along the way to this place where I am, that is both wondrous and fraught, is an unexpected and remarkable s-curve in the unfolding of my journey. Much of what I’ve experienced isn’t at all what I imagined it would be when I was chasing the rainbow of being traditionally published. In fact what I think is that I had no idea how to imagine it. What I think is that the more I know the less I know, if that makes sense. In EVIDENCE OF LIFE, my heroine, Abby, goes on a journey, too. She is similarly challenged to rethink and reprocess all she thought she knew.

Good, bad or indifferent, huge changes in life can be disconcerting. Events come along and they don’t
necessarily show up the way we planned or when we planned. Sometimes they come long after we’ve given up. Often, in the midst of them, there’s no way to see where we’re going, whether it’s safe. And it’s for sure hardest to feel there’s any gift when the worst happens, but—in my experience, anyway—the gift is always there. My son David said to me the other day that it didn’t matter whether the change was cause for celebration or desolation, the stress is the same. He also likes to quote that great John Candy line from the classically hysterical movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, that we have to be: “Like a twig in the shoulders of a mighty stream.” John Candy. Who knew he was a philosopher?

Maybe the essential ingredient for change is trust. Because it’s for sure when you are caught out on the ledge and you peer over into the abyss, there’s no net. But think about this too, if you don’t step off, you’ll miss the thrill of flying and with a little luck you might catch a good wind, the lift of a strong warm thermal, and who knows where you could land, what wonderful unexplored territory could be there, yours to experience and to share … if you don’t crash and burn. If, instead, you live to tell?


  1. Barbara, I just had to pop over and let you know that this post knocked my socks off. What a fantastic thing to keep in mind.

    Also, CONGRATS on your final edits! I can't wait for April when I'll be holding your book in my hands, celebrating along with you. :)

  2. Barbara, I am looking forward to April - reading your book and following your publicity tour. Then seeing your name on the NYT best seller list!

  3. Kerri, I'm so glad to hear from you, a fellow traveler on this same road, that I knocked you socks off! :) I'll buy you some new ones! Thanks so much for your support, truly.

  4. Thank you, Leslie! I'm so glad you dropped by. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that were to happen?!

  5. Janis Darnell YellottSeptember 28, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Barbara Taylor Sissel, My friend, you are a briliant person with talents enough for 3 people. I will be in Texas from Oct. 6 through Nov. 5th. We have got to at least talk on the phone!!!!!!!!! How can I reach you by phone? Love, joy & peace, Jan

  6. So glad to know you'll be in Texas. I just wish I could get free. We DO have to at least talk by phone. I'll PM you on Facebook w/details!