Laughed Till They Cried is born !

What all started as a bit of a lark has developed into a real, honest to goodness novel. No one is more surprised than me! As my first novel is rolling off the presses, I emerge from the whole experience with a new and profound respect for those who make their living writing books and trying to get them published. Writing it was the easy part. Getting a book published these days with the publishing business undergoing major change and agents and publishers fighting to survive, is a distressing experience. This is especially true of novels. When Douglas Arthur Brown of Boularderie Island Press notified me this spring that he would publish the manuscript, it was like winning the lottery. Like other writers, I have a drawer full of reject letters from publishing houses with nice, encouraging comments but bad news that they aren’t accepting any new authors etc. ( For those who respond to aspiring authors, I have great respect. For those who don’t have the courtesy to do so or warn on their websites that unsolicited manuscripts will remain unopened, I say a pox on all their houses! I know that publishers get hundreds of submissions each month but how long does it take to offer a struggling writer a bit of encouragement!) I can’t remember when I began this project, which ended up as a manuscript of more than 100,000 words. I think it was when I was in Florida about three winters ago---probably with a glass of white wine in my hand. Since then I worked on it on and off, once abandoning it for six months or more and having to go back to the beginning to remember who was doing what to whom. Over the whole period, friends would from time to time ask, “how’s the book coming?” and I would guiltily mumble something about it being a work in progress. To all those over the years who prompted, nagged and encouraged me, I remain forever grateful. The inspiration for the story came from a dozen women friends who jokingly call ourselves the Cell Sisters (no one can remember why) and have been meeting monthly for about twenty years with no more serious purpose than eating and drinking and keeping in touch with each other. It occurred to me that we are blessed to have this relationship and the comfort and fun it provides in good times and bad. Especially as we age and laugher becomes increasingly valuable and in short supply. Eureka ! The Cell Sisters became the inspiration for the title and theme for a novel. But on completion of the manuscript the title was abandoned on the advice of my publisher and replaced with They Laughed Till They Cried. The more I wrote, the more fascinated I became with the process of creating characters and experiencing how they went off in all directions---sometimes despite my best efforts to keep them in line. I would often sit alone at my computer late at night chuckling as Sandy delivered a funny line or crying as another one of my creations suffered a terrible tragedy. In the summer of 2013, I completed the manuscript one evening and walked into the kitchen and announced to my husband that “it is done…finally done.” Always encouraging throughout this whole process, he suggested we celebrate. I couldn’t. I found myself totally deflated. I realized that I had lived with the book’s characters for going on three years. I created them. Laughed and cried with them. As the narrative developed, they had become an increasingly important part of my life. With the completion of the manuscript, they didn’t need me any more. End of story. I was shocked that I had become so personally involved. I was even more shocked at what happened next. Originally, my goal was to tell the story. Publication was not on my mind. But, once finished, and with the encouragement of some close friends who read the first draft, I then began the discouraging process of trying to find an agent and/or a publisher. I researched self-publishing and attended seminars and lectures by those with success stories. But the more I learned, the more overwhelmed I became. I have not taken the time to become skilled with the computer. To me, it is a valued word processor and little more. Thankfully, with the help of editor Alex Pierce, Boularderie Island Press entered the picture and here we are today. As someone who has spent her entire career (beginning at age 14) writing for a living, I realized quickly I had a lot to learn about writing fiction. Alex was terrific and became a trusted advisor. She patiently worked with me through complex story lines and quirky characters and raised all the right questions. The process was a far cry from my decades in the newspaper business when I would pull a story out of my typewriter, a copy boy who would rush it to an editor who would pencil some changes and within a short time it was hitting the street in the next edition. To my chagrin, I learned that publishing books is a glacial process. From the painstaking editing experience I have memorized every line in the manuscript. We fretted over miniscule details like spelling ( pajamas NOT pyjamas) and verb tenses (which drove me nuts in school and still do.) In the next few days, a truck will pull up in front of our house and I will be presented with copies of my first novel. I think I will stand there and laugh until I cry. And that night I am going to bed with a copy under my pillow and I will have nightmares that after all of this, no one will like it !!! This rollercoaster ride continues……

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