Finally, after seven years, he was added the last three words to his dream—END.
Over forty years and tons of trash and his one dream in life was still to be a writer.
He had worked on this, his masterpiece, for over seven years and now he held it in his hands, gently caressing the cool smooth surface of the three-inch stack of crisp white paper. Holding the manuscript on his lap, he lay his head back on the sofa, closed his eyes, and thought about the last seven years.
When he wasn’t writing, he worked, he spent time with his family, he went to church every Sunday, he read, and he walked. This may give you an idea why it took seven years to finish one book. Then there were the ‘writer’s block’ episodes—he had a lot of those. He would go for weeks, sometimes months and not type in one single word. And he would always start over at the beginning and read the whole thing to where he had stopped just to check for errors, misspellings, anything that didn’t look or sound right.
Doing all his own editing made it cheaper to get published. There were thousands of publishers out there, just begging for your money—some wanted upwards of seven thousand dollars to publish your book for you and they didn’t care if it was good or not.
None of this was for him. He felt his book was good, very good actually, and he didn’t think he should have to ‘pay’ someone to publish a standup job like this, his first manuscript. He had finally picked a publisher that sounded most promising and they had accepted his submission. E-mailing in his submission, he had saved time and money there, too—the hard copy was strictly for his own pleasure; the physical feel of a lifetime of commitment—the jubilation of a thousand answered prayers. No words seemed fitting to describe his private utopia.
Four weeks later and he received his short-run order to send out for reviews. Again his heart soared as he held the first copy in his hands and lovingly ran his fingers over the smooth beautiful new cover of his book. It was official now—he was an authentic ‘published’ writer. His heart swelled, not to mention his head, with pride. He had done this. Finally. After all these years, he had done this. He could actually hold his dream in his hands and look at it with awe. His friends, his family, everyone supported him totally over the years in his endeavor to complete this book; but, he knew they were ready to give up faith in him after the fifth year. Now they had regained their confidence in him.
He made several trips to the post office each week; mailing out review copies—The New York Times, The Literary Review, National Library List, local newspapers, and so on, and so on. He sent copies to other authors and professional reviewers. According to his publisher he would need to send out at least three hundred copies just to reviewers.
Family and friends read his book and told him it was good as they smiled and patted him on the back. His heart soared with each word of praise.
Then the reviews started coming in. Three in one day. He waited until he was home to open them, prolonging the anticipation but also the dread. Nothing from the more prominent reviewers, but that could take longer—he wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. ‘No news is good news’, he always said, as he neatly sliced the first envelope with a new letter opener purchased just for the occasion.
‘…..senseless dribble….elementary style writing….bordering on moronic…’ the words jumped off the page in blurry confusion. His stomach began to churn as he read still more words with heartrending pain. How could someone actually be writing these terrible things about his lifelong dream, his passion? The pages fluttered to the floor as his trembling fingers reached for the next envelope.
Tears welled in his eyes as he read the next defilement of his beautiful book. It was compared to a low budget, b-movie….pure trash….don’t waste your money on this; he had to stop reading. Through blurry eyes he picked up the wadded sheets of the letters and dropped them into a trashcan along with the unopened third review, then dropped a lighted match into the can. How could he face his friends and family if these reviews were posted?
Slowly he got up from his chair at the kitchen dining table where he always sat to open the mail. Going into his office/computer room, he picked up a copy of his book and tears fell on the cover. Grateful that his family wasn’t home to see him act like such a baby, he threw the book across the room and dropped onto the sofa with his head in his hands.
Sobs shook his shoulders, as his heart seemed to ache with unrelenting pain. Finally he got control of his emotions; and roughly wiping the tears from his face, he gathered up all his remaining books and dumped them into a trash sack. He was a grown man; he despised this type of open emotion in other men. Taking the sack out to the trashcan, he dragged the can to the curb and slowly, numbly, walked back into the house.
Quite well he hid his feelings from everyone who knew him. He smiled his same smile and talked the same talk at work and at home. No one saw the inner ‘him’ that ached with each passing minute. Happy the day was over, he left work as quickly as possible so that he wouldn’t have to force one more smile on his already cracking face. Making his usual stop at the post office near his home, he picked up the mail and thumbed through the usual junk mail, a bill or two, and then one that caught his eye—another review.
This one seemed different from the first three. Type written return address from a lady in Arkansas with his own name and address neatly type written in large bold letters across the front of the envelope.
His first thought had been to toss it along with the last three and all his books, but this
one piqued his curiosity. Steeling himself for more verbal abuse, he dropped the rest of the mail on the table and picking up the letter opener, he deftly sliced the envelope.
As the first words jumped out at him, he had to sit down and re-read them again.
….wonderful book…well-written…fascinating characters that grab hold of you and hang on from the intriguing beginning to the heart-stopping ending…. And the praise went on and on. His jaw dropped, then his heart soared! Someone actually liked his book and didn’t mince words as the reviewer spelled out his own feelings and thoughts that had poured from his very soul into the heart of his book. Back was his euphoria that had been lost so absolutely just the day before.
Oh, my God! He dropped the letter on the table and ran for the backdoor. Like a man possessed he jumped from the top step of the porch and ran for the trashcan sitting on the curb. Praying the trash had not been collected early, he lifted the lid with his heart in his throat. There was the trash sack still filled with his glorious books! Thanking God over and over he lifted the sack from the can and hurried back inside.
With just a few short words of encouragement he had regained his self-confidence. He proudly stacked his books back on the shelf. Then sitting down at his computer, he began to start his next manuscript. He typed faster and faster as the words poured from his brain and heart out through his fingertips—a writer had been born and new worlds would open up for the reading public.
Writing characteristics that appeal to one person may or may not appeal to all people. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the work in itself is not good. Varied interest groups make for varied types of reading and writing. A writer should not let one or more poor reviews discourage them totally from ever writing again. If you enjoy reading and writing you should put your true feelings into your work and there will always be someone out there that agrees with you. Even disagreements and criticism can be constructive if you allow them to be.
LOVE ME OR HATE ME; I'M STILL GONNA' SHINE!
Sandra E. Graham, author of AMOS JAKEY and NICOLINA, published by American Book Publishing. I also write reviews for other authors through Book Pleasures. Visit my website to review some of my writing and articles: