by STEPHANIE JACOB GORDON
How many times have I begun again? Somewhere between 96 and 1,811 times. It is what I do. I am not only talking about my writing, I am talking about my life.
It’s not so much because I’ve failed a lot, it has more to do with my expectations failing me. What else is new?
It wasn’t my daddy’s fault that he could finally buy a house so we moved one month before the end of grammar school, leaving behind my 6th grade teacher—the only one who ever liked me–far behind. It’s a long story about my other teachers and it has to do with my working in studios since I was 17 days old. My new teacher at my new school really hated me—I bit my nails—the whole class lost hearing Kon Tiki until my nails grew out—the kids hated me, too. One month until Jr. Hi arrived.
It wasn’t my fault that at 74, having live around LA my whole life, I have moved To Mount Vernon, Washington. Yesterday, missing a slew of old friends, I was griping a “little,” and my granddaughter, Sarah, said, “Bubbe, go make lemonade with all those lemons.” She was right on. Upward and onward.
My oil painting teacher said I had talent—I painted and painted—my watercolor painting teacher said I had talent. Really Me? My artistic soul dreamed, but it was not to be. My dream of a garret in Scotland and becoming famous—Poof! Three wonderful kids.
Then there was my stained glass window class of 10,000 cuts. Even if I was good at it (?), I felt I might need my fingers in later life. I took my 10 X14 masterpiece home, and covered my hands with Hello Kitty bandages. I found out I am blood type B negative.
Piano—zip. Violin—zip. Ballet—zip. My mother’s dreams for me—zip—zip—zip. My dreams—not so much. What was there out in the big world meant for me?
The UCLA Writing program? I liked children’s books, didn’t I? I liked essay exams, didn’t I? I loved writing stories for kids, wouldn’t I? Besides, if that didn’t work I could always…SIGH.
So I went back to college. I took classes from the best, Sue Alexander, Eve Bunting, Sid Fleischman, and met Judy Enderle. Authors, editors, agents, publishers. A new friend who was already published! Good start, right?
Miracle! Someone wanted to buy my first YA. All 140 pages of it. Problem was; it was 250 pages long. What did I do? Of course. Nothing new here.
Second book—perfect! Almost. Begin again!
Third book—exceptional! Nearly. Begin Again!
Sometimes the editor can be wrong. You have begun again so many times you’re not sure what you were writing in the first place. It happened to Judy and me, and the editor had the book for six years. Changes after changes.Beginning again and again and again. The editor was fired. The book was returned. We sold it to another editor. The last time when we began again, we put it back in its original form. Sometimes you are right—your book is perfect.
BUT, if you want to sell it you smile and…Begin again.