Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Next Good Thing

It’s hard to put my head back into the old stuff when so much new stuff is rattling around in there.

This week I find myself stepping back and looking at the big picture. I had just started work on a novel when 9/11 happened and suddenly that novel just didn’t seem relevant any more after the twin towers fell. I set it aside and instead spent several years working on The Call to Shakabaz, a fantasy adventure for children that promotes nonviolent conflict resolution. It was a project that felt more timely to me. After I finished and published Shakabaz, I found myself returning to my 2001 project, entitled Penelope’s Odyssey. I completed it a couple of years ago, before turning my attention to revision and preparation of Memories from Cherry Harvest for publication.

After Cherry Harvest made its debut, a well-established, well-connected literary agent approached me to ask if I might have another novel in the works and if I might be interested in having her represent me. I spent quite a few weeks trying to figure out if I actually want to sign with an agent before deciding to explore that route to publication for Penelope. In the end, I told the agent it just so happens that I do have another novel and she asked if she could take a look at it. I learned a lot from working with my editor on Cherry Harvest and I felt that I could improve Penelope as a result. So I went back to the book and revised it again. This past week I sent it to the agent. And I dusted my hands off and thought to myself, finally I can get started on that new novel that is in my head.

My father is a mathematician. He just completed work on a revised and revamped version of a mathematics book he published many years ago. The publisher is typesetting it now and Dad will have galleys to read soon. His next project is work on the reissue of a book he published decades ago. He is beginning to work on that and the same publisher will be producing that book as well. Here’s the thing, though:  Dad told me that he has been thinking of some new mathematics ideas and he is getting impatient with rehashing all the old material when he has new and more exciting ideas percolating. I so identify with his situation.

I won’t deny that it’s a kick to talk with readers about Cherry Harvest now that it’s in print. And I won’t deny that I’m excited about Penelope and hopeful that the literary agent (who is reading the book in the next few weeks) will love the book and will place it with a good publisher for me. And I actually just spent a couple of years working on a sequel to Shakabaz, the first draft of which is presently out being read by young readers (for comment), which is cool. But all that aside, I have a new novel (for adults) in my head and it’s so much more exciting than rehashing the old stories that I know so well. Since 2005, I’ve been building what I call “a humanistic ecological post-apocalyptic sci-fi romance” in my head. Ha! Am I creating a new genre? That would be cool.

I’m with Dad. The most exciting thing is the next good thing. The emerging idea. A different direction. Horizons new. My imagination is a restless beast. It allows me no respite, no moment to catch my breath. So I have lost interest in all the words I have already written and the stories I have already told. I burn with a new tale to tell.

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