Susan's Blog

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Juicy New Project

I have been writing my novel, so my energy has been going into that rather than the blog. That is a good thing, however, because I need to have a big writing project again; my emotional and creative energy have been so scattered and shredded lately. I met with my editor last week for lunch and although it was great seeing her and catching up, and talking about potential projects, I walked away a little shaken. This is because she had listened to my new autism book proposal, and she told me that it was a “smaller book” than MPWA. Translates to = narrower market, paperback original, smaller advance. “Why don’t you write about ______?” she suggested, a topic that we both knew that a friend of mine is working on and trying to sell. This felt lousy to me and, although an interesting topic, I could never do that to a friend.

BLAH. Back to square one.

But by Saturday, my head was back with Natalie and her boys, Nick, Henry, and Dan. Nick is very sweet and severely autistic, Henry is also a wonderful boy but struggling with drugs, and feisty Dan is struggling with being the youngest in a family that is very challenging. Natalie is separated from her husband Todd and is beginning to see other men. Her husband finds out and things become very complicated. My agent is discouraging me from going the fiction route; so much harder to sell. My editor: definitely not their kind of book.

But while doing an excellent workout on Saturday, I thought of the twist that I think will make my book interesting and edgy, and of course it has to do with playing around the edges of traditional marital fidelity, and keeping a family together in emotionally trying circumstances. Here’s a new excerpt:

Nat dialed the pizza place the moment she got in the door. “Henry!” she called with the phone on her ear. “Are you going to eat?”
“Yeah!”
Henry had stayed home from school today because he’d been so sick last night. Nat had had to force him. He claimed he was fine, but she thought he looked green around the gills, as her mother used to say. Must have picked something up at Todd’s.
“Nick, will you come in here and help Mommy with the table?”
Nick got up from his spot on the couch and pulled a napkin out of the drawer.
“There’s more than one person eating, ya know,” came Dan’s voice out of nowhere.
“Dan, where are you?”
“In here.”
Nat looked around the kitchen, under the table, but couldn’t find him.
“Here.”
The voice was coming from the slats in the louvred pantry closet. He couldn’t possibly fit – she pulled the door open and Dan came tumbling out. “Ow!”
“Well, honey, why were you in there? You’re too big for that.”
“I like it in there. I can be a spy. And let me tell you: that guy does NOT know how to set a table.”
“Well, why don’t you show him?” Nat asked, running out of patience. She got out the juice and the salt.
“Hey, I thought we were doing that!”
We. She liked that. Dan and Nick, doing something together. She smiled and stepped back from the fridge. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to get in your way. Go for it, guys!”
“Yes,” said Nick, hurrying to pull out one more napkin.
“You need three more!” shouted Dan.
Nick put the napkin down and brought his palm down hard on Dan’s head.
“Ow! Stop that!”
Nick kept hitting in a blind rage, and then started biting his own arm as Dan began shrieking and crying.
Nat came running in from the dining room. “Nick! Nick! Sit down,” she pointed at the floor. “Time out.”
Nick sat down immediately but kept biting his arm.
“Calm hands, Nick. Calm hands.”
“That guy is a stupid idiot freak!” Dan was rubbing his head. “I’ll never forgive him for this! Never! I’m telling the President!” He stomped out of the room.
“Idiotfreak whoooom,” said Nick, covering his eyes. “Sorry I yelled at you.”
“Oh, Baby,” Nat said, and started to cry. “Oh God. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” She balled herself up in the corner by the pantry door and just cried. After a while, she became aware of someone standing right next to her, completely quiet. Nick.
“Crying,” Nick said. “Mommy sad.” He was peering down into her face. He put his hands on her cheeks.

7 comments

Susan – I say go for it!!It would be nice to read a book that isn’t so serious about autism and one we could all escape into for a little while!!! – Shannon

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 8:53 am

I forgot that the main character’s name was Natalie and I thought “Nat” was a typo. You know, you’re so accustomed to typing it. I thought you were confused. Turns out it was actually *me* that was confused. 🙂 Can’t wait for the new book to come out. And if you decide to change Natalie’s name (to avoid confusing other people who are easily confused!) you can always go with “Wendy”. hee hee

— added by Wendy on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 9:33 am

Keep going. Don’t let rejection stop you. For every one person who says no, there is always another who will say YES!!

— added by Estee Klar-Wolfond on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 11:57 am

hey its me again…
I would read your novel..I disagree though i think there will be plenty of autism stuff in there as well as plenty of your life…you have never been able to seperate yourself and your life from your writting..that is the sign of true passion…

— added by Kristen on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 5:38 pm

Hey, I have 150 pages!!!!
Sorry, Wendy, her name just is Nat. That’s who she is. Ya know what I mean?
Kristen – autism will be a part of their family but it is not the main plot. want to see some of it via email? lemme know.

— added by Susan Senator on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 8:17 pm

Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying!

— added by Wendy on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Hello Susan. Hopefully you do not mind me barging in like this, but I could not help but mentally make an analogy between your editor’s response to your book concept and the response many autistic people receive quite often: that of being told that who we are, what we are, isn’t really right for the “market” (i.e., the common denominator, the notion someone else has in mind for how we should present).

I’d encourage you to write the book you are passionate about writing, just as you seem to be doing a good job of letting your kid live as who he is. The advice “work with your strengths, and do things that represent your interests” does not just apply to autistic people, but also to authors, artists, and people everywhere who sometimes must pass through middlemen / gatekeepers on the way to some sort of success.

What you want and need to write may not “sell” as well as something else, but there are things more important than a large sale market.

— added by Zilari on Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 12:57 am

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