Dear Emma

I’ve heard it said each of us has a book in them.  I hope that is true because writing has become truly my passion.  Hemingway warned us that if writing becomes our addiction, only death itself can save us.  Since I plan to live for several more years, I hope to have many more books in me.

My short bio admits that I wanted to be a writer since the age of fourteen.  That’s true, but as I tried to write, I found I didn’t have my voice. Oh, I wrote a few songs, or poems for my children, and I wrote dozens of unfinished novels that no one ever saw or heard of.  It seemed no matter the genre after a few thousand words I sounded like someone else. Frustrating? Yes.  Disappointing? Extremely.

Then, in 2010, I was awakened one night by my wife who was crying.  I can’t speak for other husbands, but in my case when that happens it’s a signal I’m in trouble.  But I wasn’t. Instead, she told me of a dream she had where a little girl’s mother died suddenly but as the girl grew and faced challenges, her mother wrote her notes from the other side of the veil.

“You need to write that,” I suggested.

“No, I’m not a writer,” she replied.

“You could be,” I pressed.

“If you think it could be a story, you write it,” she said.

“Don’t do that.  If you say that three more times, I will take your idea and write a story.”

“You write it. You write it. You write it.”

I had a story like I had never seen before, never heard of before.  If I wrote it, it had to be in my voice, there was no one I knew of that I could mimic.  Inside my head, the challenge was made.  Take the story and make it mine. I felt fear as I sat before the empty digital sheet on my computer and watched the blinking cursor.

It’s easy to sit down for a couple of hours and bang out a few hundred words, that does not a writer make. A writer has to face that unfinished manuscript the following day and recapture the magic of the story and the enthusiasm of the characters.  Whatever else is going on in the real world must be suspended so the writer can reenter the imaginary world and again, capture, if not stumble over the magic. It’s pure creativity and is so rewarding that Hemingway was right.  It can be addicting.

“Dear Emma” became my first published work.  It is a novella of 60,000 words, give or take.  I wrote it as a novella, frankly because I wasn’t confident enough to challenge a novel the first time out.  I also didn’t know if people would like it.  I didn’t know if I could finish it.  My safety net was if they didn’t, or I didn’t, at least I wouldn’t waste too much time.

I self-published using the Amazon system and the night the story was uploaded and nothing was left except push the “publish” key, I was scared.  I can only equate the feeling to sending your child, whom you have raised and nurtured, to school the first day and hoping she won’t be bullied.

She wasn’t.  “Dear Emma” was and continues to be warmly received and enjoyed. She will always have a special place in my heart, not because I created her, but because of what she gave me. She gave me the confidence to write my first novel.

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