Lay it Fallow

5537491867_e7a15c2aea_zI think I need to put my memoir away for a while.

This is not an easy thing to do. When you write a book that you believe in, that you love, you want to do everything you can to see it thrive in the world.

There’s the writing itself, of course, first. The eight years of it, the many revisions, the several re-structurings.

There’s the giving it over to eyes other than yours. Trusted eyes. Smart ones. There’s that feedback. The cutting, the enlarging. The sense that others might love it too.

And then there’s the sending it into the actual world. Queries. Proposals. Agents. Contests and presses of every size.

Some stats:

Years to write: 8
Years since completion: 2
Agents queried: 40
Agents interested: 8
Presses submitted to: 35
Presses declined: 35

Here’s the thing: it takes a lot of work and, often, a lot of rejection before a thing lands. I have a pretty good callus at this point for such things.

But I don’t have a good sense of the reason my book has not yet landed. I don’t think it’s the quality of the writing. A number of pieces of it have been published in good places. Perhaps, then, it is structurally unsound? I found this fantastic piece about structuring essay collections by Rebecca McClanahan over at Brevity Blog the other day, and immediately assigned it to my students. But maybe I need to apply it to my own work, too.

Or maybe the publishing world is not primed right now for a quiet book like mine. That, after all, was the adjective most often applied to the project by agents and editors who lamented the necessity of passing on it. Beautiful but too quiet, they said.

Maybe it’s just not time.

So I don’t know. But I do know that it’s taking up enormous acreage in my psyche and my heart. Too much acreage. I’m exhausted by the act of tending. It might be time to step away for a bit. Close the document file. Put it in a drawer and turn toward something else.

Not abandonment–never that–but perhaps a year of letting it lay fallow would do us both some good.

Let’s see what new (stronger? more robust?)  things might grow.

*image courtesy of Dianne Cordell

4 thoughts on “Lay it Fallow

  1. emceedee says:

    Be at peace, Sheila, with your choice and try again when you feel the time’s right. I wish you well and I know that you’ll publish. Not when you want to but I know it’ll happen.

  2. Shery Alexander Heinis says:

    Hi Sheila – Great to meet you here on WP. Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us. I tried once in the past, to have a manuscript published. I learned a few thing from the rejections. I’m wiriting again, this time poetry for now, and like you, hope to publish a chapbook. Your experiences, my experience and the experience of others demonstrate that perseverance is key in the kind of work we pursue. Keep on keeping on!

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