Monday I sent the proofs of MAUD to my editor. Today I cut many inches off my hair.
For over two years I’ve kept it long because it helped me get into the body of Maud’s character. As I explained it to my hairdresser (who nodded like she understood, but I suspect she was a little concerned for me), I needed to be able to put it up in a bun or some other concoction.
The same thing happened when I was writing Oy! and I cut my hair short, (by my last hairdresser. I’m loyal to my new person who understands me completely now.) At the time, my advisor lovingly said, “You method writers.”
My hairdresser was so excited to finally be able to cut my hair. And, as she cut away the strands of this past few years, I felt like I was saying goodbye. Hair can be biblical. Hair can be political. Like the song, “Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta of My Hair” , it can signify the end of something.
This past summer I had the opportunity to focus on writing and creating. A taste on what it could be like if I could craft my own schedule, move and shift in my natural rhythm (night owl, late to mid morning riser), and the freedom to travel.
You must understand this was a very bold move for me. Since I was fourteen (not counting when I worked in the corporate world) I worked every summer. I never did the whole summer in Europe (although there was a three week trip to Greece with a then boyfriend when I was 17 which I still can’t believe my mother let me go on). In other words, I always banked on some kind of work that gave me a paycheque every two weeks, the dependability of that. This summer I banked on the idea that my savings and whatever freelance work I had would somehow get me through the four months before I went back to teaching. And, yes, I do have my partner so I’m very fortunate that I have that cushion, but there was a certain element of trust at play that everything would somehow work out. In gratitude it has.
The thing I’ve learned most about my creative process is how well I work in motion. Planes, trains, cars and buses, I sit with a pen or my computer and my brain/body understands that it is time to work. This might have something to do with writing on the bus during my early morning commutes when I worked full time.
So when my friend and fellow Dystropian, Sheryl Scarborough* author of the forthcoming thriller To Catch a Killer, suggested I come out West and write with her in her new house a little outside of Portland. I decided that if I could find a cheap flight, I would. I found one.
And then more generosity of friends emerged. One of my best friends from high school had moved out to Seattle, so I got see his life out there. Doing some work in the mornings and then visiting in the afternoon, there is also something rejuvenating about writing in a space that is completely new. And spending four days writing with a view like this, certainly nurtured the creative spirit.
I also got to visit other VCFA friends and went to the Beverly Cleary statues and play with Ramona and Henry. **
There was also a trip to Powell’s bookstore, where of course I had to check all of the Montgomery books. They had about four shelves! And, yes, I held back.
On my way home I visited with another generous friend in Vancouver who suggested that I take the train from Portland. It was long, but the view would be spectacular. I revised and looked at the window and ate my snacks. She was so right. It was perfect.
On the flight home, I finished the round of revisions. The following day, I slept. And then the mourning process began. In the gratitude of getting to write this story, see things like covers and back matter, there is this weird panic that also comes in, as well as a sadness I couldn’t quite articulate.
In June, I went East. I had submitted the edits of the latest draft to my editor and was now working on my talk for the L.M. Montgomery and Gender Conference, which also included practicing what would be my first public reading of MAUD. To say that I was nervous about this would be putting it mildly. Petrified would be more accurate.
VCFA was having their annual alumni-mini-rez and so I stayed with another generous friend in Montreal (which included a road trip with my dad listening to Hamilton), and then staying with another dear friend in Montpellier, helped out where I could and went to the lectures, which included a Master’s class by Francisco Stork. This was exactly what I needed to rekindle my passion for my neglected novel, as well as put the fire under my you-know-what to find an agent.
My road tripping friend from Texas joined me up and we hung out in Montpelier, writing and working on our essays. VCFA and LMM worlds merged and it was glorious. C and I then made a pitstop at the Almanzo Wilder homestead, because of course…
In PEI Rachel McMillan, author of the Herringford and Watt mystery novels, and I listened to Hamilton–as one does—and we drove around the Island. I coordinated the social media for the conference and so didn’t sleep for about a week. But that is part of the fun. There was also another Anne & Gilbert musical moment where I got to hang out with the actress who plays “Anne.”***
It was standing room only for our session and when I read MAUD for the first time at the banquet, I held onto my glass so tightly because I was shaking so much. People were very kind and laughed (not at me, but the scene) and clapped.
When I returned from PEI the copyedits were ready for my approval and thus began the next stage of the editorial process. I moved my office around so I could look out the window and tried to remain calm. More emotions. The idea that we are indeed nearing the end. Again the mixture gratitude, fatigue and terror. I won’t be able to protect her anymore. Grief. Panic. Joy. All of the emotions.
Then, Maud got an actual pub date: May 16, 2017.
I squealed, panicked and got back to work.
The boyfriend and I left for a week in Quebec City at the beginning of August where I did no writing at all. Not even journal writing. I gave myself permission for a complete break.
And when we came home, I worked on two essays due on the same day with very different style guides (so that wasn’t confusing at all.) What was fun about that was being able to switch brains and focus my theories on the Perfect Man Archetype to something much more specific. Cross your fingers that these will be accepted.
Then, Maud showed up on goodreads.
I squealed, panicked, and then went back to work.
The proofs came. I faced them. I knew this was it. Seeing it in a font that isn’t WORD changes everything. And, as I tried not to over think every single sentence, I had to come to the conclusion that I’ve done the best that I could. I only hope that it will be good enough. Give her the story she deserves, that she needed me to tell.
After almost four and a half years I now have to let Maud out into the world. There was an anxiety dream that involved a dear friend shaking her head and saying, “Terrible.” There has been a lot of late nights rewatching period miniseries and movies, romance comedies and Hallmark movies like this one, and (as of late) Gilmore Girls (in preparation of the reunion show in November).
I’ve read all of the books that I wanted from the library. I’ve stayed away from violent or heavy TV, movies and books. I’ve looked to things that made me laugh and saw my family and friends. I took long walks, did yoga, and hung out with my next door neighbour.
And then, moments after I had sent the proofs to my editor on Monday morning, my friend messaged me that he saw Maud on amazon.ca.
I squealed, panicked, and went back to work.
The same day Netflix announced it would be streaming the new CBC Anne miniseries next year, and a friend told me Anne of Green Gables was featured on Stranger Things.
All of these things could work in my favour, or they could mean absolutely nothing at all. I can tell you that I’ve squealed, panicked and (with a bit of procrastinating) gotten back to work, because it is the only thing I can do.
In coming months, you’ll probably see more updates from me about the book, a new website, and I’m hoping to get back to talking up some of the brilliant work being done in the creative community. I’ve recently updated my “about” section to reflect the next stage in this process.
I’m also going to be giving a lecture on the role of bad boys in YA lit for Humber’s Liberal Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference, and then something about L.M. Montgomery’s early poetry in Leaskdale for their L.M. Montgomery Day.
There is also the new novel and finding an agent, plus the teaching, so I’ll keep myself out of trouble.
Next week I end the summer with a week-long writing retreat in Nova Scotia where another generous friend kindly invited me to participate. After a summer of writing and traveling, it seems fitting to start something new.
*In my recounting of events I may drop names of people who have books releasing because, as you are aware, I enjoy connecting creative people. And there are books you might want to know about and read.
**The literary road trips was also a theme of the summer, something I hope to revisit soon.
***There will be more on this in the future as I think I know where all of the Anne & Gilbert is going. Finally. 🙂