Michael Burlingham, an old college friend, sent me this photo. It's probably from 1973 and I'm working on my first novel, Angel Dust Blues. The desk was a door I found somewhere and propped up on cinder blocks. To my right is part of a manuscript I'm probably revising for the 100th time. Tacked to the wall on my left are taped-together hand-edited scenes awaiting re-typing. Just to the left of the typewriter on the desk is something called The Word Book, which contained 10,000 correctly spelled words for people like me who couldn't, and still can't, spell. The Smith-Corona is long gone, and the author is a bit older, but otherwise, very little has changed.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
In 1979 my first YA novel, Angel Dust Blues, was published to good reviews. I managed to follow up through the early 1980s with more well-received novels, but like most careers that get off to a good start, mine was bound to hit a pot hole sooner or later. And so not surprisingly, toward the end of the decade I sank into a rut with books that neither sold well nor received particularly good reviews.
As a result, invitations to speak at major conferences started to slow, along with interview requests, bookstore signings, etc. I began to fret that readers, and my publisher, might be tempted to assume that my best work was behind me.
Worried about my future as a writer, I resolved to stage a comeback, and worked extra hard to create three new proposals for timely, cutting-edge, hard-hitting YAs that, I believed, were sure to be praise-worthy, money-making award winners. My strategy was simple: if I pitched three, my editor would feel compelled to approve at least one of them.
When the Day of Judgment arrived, I clomped into my editor’s office armed with engaging plot summaries and detailed outlines. I pitched the three book ideas passionately, describing key scenes and plot points, surprise twists, and unexpectedly satisfying conclusions.
Having put everything I could into this effort, I ended by telling my editor how eager I was to begin work on at least two of the books immediately.