Sunday, May 6, 2012
Between Art & Love
Then I floated into love like a sail that slowly untwines from its moorings and allows itself to fill with wind. After that, the choice was made, and I wouldn’t have given up that man if I never wrote another sentence.
Six months after we married, a bill for a student loan came in the mail that made me so furious at the degree that had cost so much and never gave in return, I sat down in our store office for two hours each day and -- in between scanning the aisles for shoplifters -- began to write.
I completed my first novel within a year: an atrocious amalgam of fact and fiction that left truth hanging out there like a mirage. The second novel also took a year. As I waited for feedback from my beta readers (three of whom had been fellow English majors in college), my crossed fingers began to itch and my mind burble with the world of words waiting to be explored.
So, I started to create a heartrending story that had been plaguing me even while writing the two previous novels. The only problem was, this story needed to be set in an Old Order Mennonite community, and years ago I’d declared that I was never going to take advantage of my last name or plain background by hopping on that bonnet book wagon.
Word to the wise: never say never.
One month and fifty pages in, I met a man at an author reading whose last name was as Dutchy as my own. We began swapping Lancaster County stories, and I told him about the one I was currently working on. He asked to see it because…well, he was a literary agent.
The whole drive from Nashville to my mountain home, I was a mixture of euphoria and disbelief.
Nobody knew except for my husband, my sister-in-law (because we worked together), and myself, but I was two months pregnant the evening I met my future agent, Wes Yoder, and my heart had prepared to relinquish my creativity in order to bring our first child into the world.
Instead, I began to write. I wrote every spare second in twenty-four hours, and when Wes read those first fifty pages of my novel and wanted to see more, I didn’t care if the seconds could be spared or not. For five months -- rain or shine, heat or snow -- my novel expanded as my belly grew, and right before Christmas, I printed the manuscript off at our store and my husband helped package and stamp it with Ambassador Literary’s address.
Time became a kaleidoscope of doctor appointments, baby showers, nursery renovations, and rewrites. I sent out requests for novel endorsements while my husband timed my contractions to determine if they were Braxton Hicks or not.
Eventually they became the real thing, and as I was waiting to go home from the hospital with our newly-minted bundle of joy, I received an email from NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Julie Cantrell that said she believed in my story.
I held my newborn daughter and cried.
Last Friday, I pumped a bottle and gave it to my husband who prayed with me before going into our bedroom and rocking our two month old on the glider. I then sat on the couch, lit a candle, drank some water, and punched in two sets of numbers. Using the breathing exercises I employed during labor, I waited for the publishing house hosting the conference call to pick up.
One great conversation and forty minutes later, I entered our bedroom where my husband waited. “How’d it go?” he asked.
I could just smile as tears of gratefulness coated my throat. I then went over and kissed him and looked down at our little girl asleep on his chest.
Six years have passed since I was sitting in a college classroom discussing if an artist had to choose between the pursuit of art or the pursuit of love. I now know the truth: You don’t have to choose one over the other, for giving your heart to one, sometimes gives you a plethora of both.