Tuesday, January 8, 2013
A dream turning into reality
It was a bright, vivid dream, like sitting in the front row in a theatre where lighting makes the colours pop and the action is right there. It was a musical dream, with many voices singing in harmony, dancers whirling past, and the kind of excitement that draws people to their feet in standing ovations. It was an uplifting dream, with a story to make a heart leap and dive and leap a few times, before a conclusion worthy of cheers and bravos.
And then I woke up. In the dark, with Lee snuggled beside me, and our girls in their room across the hall. It was disorienting to go from such a vibrant dream to a sleeping household in the middle of the night.
I was so thunderstruck that I turned on my night table lamp (eliciting groans of "what are you doing?" from my poor husband) and searched the bedroom for a pen and some paper. Eventually I found an eyeliner and scribbled a few notes on the back of a sales receipt in brown-black, turned off the light again, and tried to go back to sleep to recapture the dream -- which, of course, didn't work.
The next morning, as I made the bed, I found the sales slip on the floor, and couldn't decipher much of what I had written. But the feeling of the dream was strong, and stayed with me for a long time. Months later (or was it years?), my husband left town on a week-long business trip, and after I got my little girls to bed, I began to write the dream for my little writing club of two, working until the wee hours. By then, I had only the memory of a few legible words in brown-black with which to work. The colours, lights, action and music had faded away, and my imagination followed the characters and what they wanted to tell me... all the way to 207,000 words over five-and-a-half years. The story came to a conclusion that was emotionally different than the dream's, but it was still very satisfying. I mailed it to my best friend, the other member of the writing club, and was delighted when she responded that the unexpected climax in the story "rocked" her.
In the five years since, I've had many friends and several strangers read the manuscript and give critical feedback. It takes a village to raise a child, and probably just as many critics to fix a full-length novel. I've written and rewritten different sections of my story. I've sent it to one publisher who rejected it. I've chopped it by 25% with the help of a friend who was trained as an editor (and who helped me understand my issues with passive voice), and because of the kind advice of Marina Endicott, a writer I met at a Writer's Corner at the public library. And now I'm convinced that my story is finally 100% publishable, if I can find someone at the right press to see its value and share it. It's a story of which I'm very proud. It is also a very timely story, as this past weekend, there were two articles in the news about girls trapped into the sex trade.
Yesterday, my calendar quoted John O'Donohue, who said, "May I have the courage today... to postpone my dreams no longer." It was a good omen. I hopped a bus and delivered my manuscript to a local publisher, one that gives new writers a chance. This time, I am ready for whatever comes -- my decision to submit for publication doesn't feel as scary as it did the first time because I know my story is finally as good as I (and a few others) can make it. If the publisher accepts it, that will be wonderful. If not, I'll find another way. The dream has already changed my life, so I'm not looking for fame or fortune. I've already promised all author proceeds to the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), an agency that helps women caught in human trafficking. All I want now is for others to be able to read my little masterpiece and learn about a cause that has become one of my passions. So wish me luck!