I’m sitting here remembering my twenties and thirties which resembled a reading festival. I satisfied my hunger for novels by focusing on one author at a time, usually women authors. I began with Margaret Atwood and graduated to the magic realism of Isabel Allende. Then later, when I discovered Latin literature, I devoured those novels.
Many times, I was up to my elbows in unfinished books. I walked blocks from the library with books weighing me down. I attended a book festival in Seattle that took place in a pier on the waterfront. And I attended author events at Elliott Bay Books and then later, Ravenna Third Place Books.
I was in awe of authors. Besides, musicians, authors caused me to engage in hero worship. I read their biographies and interviews with them in which they would say that it took them five to ten years to write a novel. So when I wrote my first novel, Super-Nature Heroes in six months, I thought I must have sucked as an author. I had thought of writing a novel for at least a decade, but since I had not majored in English, I demurred. No, I thought, I will just leave novel writing for the experts or the real authors.
It’s hard to believe that since 2005, I have written five novels and none of them took me five years to write. But at least one of them took me several years of rewriting to get it right. And even then. None of my novels are published at this time. I went the self-publishing route for a short period in 2012-13 and stumbled through the process that ended in disappointment. I still believe that the right agents will come along and represent my novels. I am patient. I am older and realistic.
The downside to writing my own novels is I no longer place authors on pedestals–the allure has faded. However, when I pick up a novel that astounds me, I grow weak in the knees. Darn, I think, that author nailed it. I could never write that brilliantly. And no one is ever going to celebrate anything I’ve written.
That’s when I stop myself. Writing is not a competition unless you enter a contest. I’ve entered writing contests and I have never enjoyed it. Even if I won, contests are like comparing oranges and apples. And I despise the idea of people judging my work as if its a dog and pony show. Besides, I don’t want to compete with other authors. I prefer to join their club and read their work.
I prefer to kick back on a rainy winter’s day with a few novels waiting on my desk for me to crack open their covers. I prefer to explore someone else’ work and escape into the unknown. And I want to feel like I have climbed into a canoe with the author as he or she paddles us across a lake. And then when we reach the shore, I shake his or her hand and say a quiet thank you.
Photo and Essay by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved