Midweek Me Moment

Allow a moment of self-indulgence in this self-titled blog to mention what’s up in my writing life.

First, I’ve finally faced the fact that I have to rekey the novel manuscript that has become what my husband affectionately calls the “eternal novel.” Eternal because I work on it, leave it, work on it, leave it, work on it . . .

The novel begins immediately post 9/11 (though I began writing it in 2007) and is about a middle-aged LDS woman who, in the 1970’s, unknowingly married a closeted homosexual. He, of course, hoped marriage and hetero-sex would cure him. The marriage didn’t go so well, as you can imagine. She harbors resentment, and the novel works its way toward, what else but redemption and peace? The  female protagonist is a non-traditional graduate student in history at BYU and is working on a master’s thesis about the Unknown Man. The Unknown Man is listed on the “This is the Place Monument” as a member of the first wagon team to enter the valley. The life of this pioneer, her ancestor and a reluctant polygamist, is the secondary plotline. Basically, I strive to use his character as a sort of substitute voice for the gay ex-husband, who isn’t always front and center, since its the woman’s story. While the pioneer subplot is told in the classic, “this happened, then this,  then this” structure, the remainder of the novel is a structural stew, with present and past tenses, and first and third person voices for the protagonist all mixed together. Unabashedly high brow and yet, I think, accessible.

As I said, I’ve left the novel a few times, largely because some of the political tensions between the Church and the gay community have knocked my breath from me and made me step back, to watch and wait. I’ve never considered this novel one written for the MoLit community, but for the secular, and have worked hard to ensure that it doesn’t make political statements and cannot be read as a treatise on Mormondom. I aim to craft a novel that functions as what Potok would call a bridge between the religious and secular communities. This has required me to be very sure I know what those communities are thinking, how they have been speaking to one another, and where the pitfalls may be for me in terms of crafting that sturdy bridge between secular and religious. And, of course, I’ve taken time out from work on the novel to write shorter pieces or do some editing. Once in a while teaching became overwhelming, so I quit. Priorities, people, priorities.

But all is falling into place and the novel is approaching its conclusion. Approaching. Unfortunately, I began the thing on an old computer with an old Word 2003 program. I’m taking a few mindless days now to rekey the thing into the most recent version of Word and am enjoying and gaining confidence from revisiting the earlier scenes.

Laying on the floor about five feet to my left is a great kid who is making blowing-up sounds and tossing Lego assault vehicles of his own creation into the air. I’m looking forward to the advent of another school year and large blocks of time to finish and buff up the manuscript.

Then begins the arduous task of finding Holding Back the Moon a home with a publisher so it can make it to your homes. Charge!

Watch for a review of Kathryn Lynard Soper’s memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born, to be posted Friday, and followed next week with a Discussion for Writers on the power of perspective.

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4 Comments

Filed under Getting Published, MoLit Community

4 responses to “Midweek Me Moment

  1. You retyped the whole novel?!? Our versions of Word seem to work OK amongst each other, including the 2003 version of Word on one system.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the novel and eventually reading it.

  2. Brett Wilcox

    I can’t wait!

  3. I’m looking forward to reading. Question: do you mean that there is a need for a bridge between religious and secular in order to resolve contention concerning gay issues? About religious and secular in general, I found just lately that thinking about the WTC girder cross has helped me connect religious and secular. As someone who doesn’t use the cross in worship, I still find cemetaries moving, and considering the millions of dead in the world who have been laid to rest under this symbol, I couldn’t help but feel moved by the cultural value alone in the cross and it being depicted in the Ground Zero remnants.

  4. Rebecca, most fiction stemming from a religious culture (though not all) has difficulty finding an audience among secularists. Christian fiction, Mormon fiction, are their own category and have separate bookstores and often publishers. Readers who do not share the faith-base with the characters in questions usually don’t connect to the story. So yes, secularists tend to not read books growing out of religious cultures. I do think its easier for religious people to read secularist novels than the other way around.

    And yet religious cultures are a fundamental building block of western secularist thinking. And the people living in those religious cultures have as universal a set of experiences as those outside. But sometimes writers crash and burn trying to write an insular faith culture for the broader market. Mormonism is certainly insular. While post-Mormons have succeeded in getting their stories (particularly in theater) to the secularist audience, few stories written by and about believing Mormons find a home outside the faith.

    An example: A wonderful little novel by Todd Robert Peterson called Rift, published by Zarahemla books. (Its Kindle edition is only $1.99) I’ve been told this book was shopped nationally before it found a publisher with one of the Mormon small presses. While it had the potential to become a novel that worked in the mainstream, it didn’t, I think, because to a secularist, the quirky Mormon small town culture he wrote about felt misogynistic. Now I believe that that quirkly small town could have been written in a way that held true to Mormon gender relations without sinking to misogyny. Maybe that’ll come up when I get around to reviewing the book. If you haven’t read Rift, you should, be it the electronic version or paperback. Its a very funny book.

    Anyway, there are certain things writers should be able to do to make ingesting a read about a religious culture more tolerable for a secularist. I’m not going to spend too much time here because I plan on posting on this topic in great detail many times over, seeing as its something that occupies my mind a lot. I will say, though, that Chaim Potok is a Jewish writer who spoke extensively about the problems he faced in writing the Hasidic life for a secular world. I’m a fan of his way of thinking. Read “The Chosen” if you haven’t. Much of what I write in the future on the topic will refer to Potok’s work.

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