SLEEPING WITH THE NOVEL

by Cathy Arden on January 22, 2016

naked woman with sheet

 

I have a confession to make. I’m sleeping with my novel. It’s not like sleeping with the enemy. Well, not really. And it’s not like sleeping with my lover.   But I dare say it’s intimate nonetheless and I find I can no longer ignore this intimate relationship and the fact that this….well….”being” waits for me in bed every night.

It’s not altogether whole. And yet it’s whole enough to reach out and touch beside me. Truth be told, it’s my first. And you know what they say. You never forget your first. Even after decades. And decades.

I wrote this novel, the one that’s in bed with me now, when I was 24. After writing the first two pages, I quit my job. There had been no plan for this. I was a poet. I had just received a Ford Venture Grant for my poetry and had returned from my post as a Poetry Fellow at a writer’s conference. I had sat down on my first day back from the conference to write a poem and two pages later I knew this wasn’t a poem. Three days after that I quit my job to write the book that wasn’t a poem.

Three months after I wrote those first two pages, the book was finished. I have no idea how that happened. Except that I was having an affair with a married Israeli cellist and I only remember him and the typewriter and him and the typewriter and him and the typewriter. And after three months, when I got up from the typewriter and the book was finished, the cellist went back to his wife. And I went to a psychiatrist who informed me I was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. (Do people even use that term anymore?)

The book almost sold. My agent sent it out and sent it out and sent it out and, lo and behold, a major publisher wanted it. The Editor-in-Chief made the offer and it was a go. She then assigned me to an editor at her company who happened to be an aspiring writer and who also happened to be in my weekly writer’s workshop. I didn’t like this editor because I pretty much felt she hated me. I was very young, very naïve and, yes, very stupid. My stupidity kicked in when I tried handling the situation myself without ever letting my agent know what was going on. I picked up the phone and called the Editor-in-Chief. The next thing I knew my agent was calling me to say the deal was off. And that, as they say, was that. The book entered the dark recesses of closets and cartons and my psyche and, unbeknownst to me, has traveled with me incognito through life.

I thought it was lost. But recently I was going through cartons in a deep, dark closet – ones I hadn’t gone through in what felt like hundreds of years — and I pulled out the one typewritten copy I had of…drum roll please…Touring The Nile. That’s its name. I may as well tell you its name because my agent is waiting for me to show it to her and it could, possibly, be my next book out.

But I don’t know how I feel about this novel lying here in bed beside me. I keep it close because I reach for it when I gather the courage and if it wasn’t close I’d truly avoid it. It’s like a former lover you once felt passionate about in your youth coming back to you after basically a lifetime.  Does the novel understand who I am now? Do I understand the novel? How do we relate to each other? Do I allow it to stand on its own, or do I try to update it and fill it with my lifetime of knowledge and understanding, joy and grief? Could the wisdom in the novel possibly be greater than the wisdom I have gained after all these years?

I believe this novel, my first, is filled with secrets I don’t yet understand. I have no idea where it came from or why it entered me the way it did and made such an impact. It shook me to the core then, and now as I read it….slowly….I begin to unravel my fear, my reluctance, my judgment. Much as one does with a new lover who happens into your life by surprise, as new lovers always do. You embrace, you swoon, you step back, you consider, and hopefully, you fall in love.

 

 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy G. January 22, 2016 at 8:52 AM

Cathy, this is so well put . . . and beautifully written. Keep us posted on the submission!

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Cathy Arden January 22, 2016 at 2:02 PM

Thanks, Judy! Yes, I’ll keep you posted!

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Amanda Campbell January 22, 2016 at 9:22 AM

Beautiful

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Cathy Arden January 22, 2016 at 2:01 PM

Thanks, Amanda!

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Iris January 22, 2016 at 11:19 AM

An intriguing introduction. I wait with great anticipation to reading itl

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Cathy Arden January 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Thanks, Iris!

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Rima Simon January 23, 2016 at 9:28 AM

Wonderful, write on

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Cathy Arden January 23, 2016 at 12:34 PM

Thanks, Rima!

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Stephanie January 24, 2016 at 4:37 AM

Lovely, Cathy, and it resonates with this writer!

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Cathy Arden January 24, 2016 at 5:27 PM

Thanks, Stephanie! And I’m so glad it resonates with you!

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Paula Ziegman January 26, 2016 at 5:21 AM

This feels like awakening after having a dream that will alter your entire life, if only you could remember the details .. though your sensory memory is that of endless possibility ~ almost too intoxicating to feel in one sweep of the imagination.

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Cathy Arden January 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM

That’s beautiful, Paula. Thank you so much for that thought.

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