About fifteen years ago, when I was a stay-at-home mother of four boys, a professional woman with no children asked me what I did all day. I looked around my home, at the piles of laundry, stacks of dirty dishes, thousands of action figures and Matchbox cars and replied, “Usually I nap or read after my masseuse leaves for the day. Then I polish my nails and cook a romantic dinner for my husband.” Then I crossed her name off my list of friends and went back to the chaos of trying to keep my nose just above the level of clutter.
Last week, my now 19-year old son asked me the same question on our trip home from his freshman year of college. This time, I wasn’t angry or defensive. In fact, this has become one of my favorite questions for people, not because I don’t believe people aren’t busy, but on the contrary, because I’m fascinated by how people choose to spend their precious, allotted 1,440 minutes each day. And, now that I’m an “empty-nester” with a retired husband and have no “real” job, it almost seems like a legitimate question. That, plus, my youngest son can do no wrong.
But first, if I were to take a poll of the lowest-paying jobs one could have in Des Moines, Iowa, three possibilities come to mind. Number One: Stay-at-home Mom. Number Two: high-end contemporary art dealer. Three: wanna-be novelist, waiting to be discovered.
Aha! My resume! But it’s worth noting (for my fragile self-esteem) that those are all Labor of Love occupations, or at least they have been for me. These days, I write as much as possible, which is never enough. I love writing: the solitary nature, the excitement of the perfect paragraph, the surprise of a character leading me down an unknown path, the sense of accomplishment of having written a novel that a PhD professor of English at Ole Miss says is “truly first class.” Perhaps only an artist can truly understand the quiet passion. In any case, my novel, That Changes Everything, is ready and waiting.
As an art dealer, I worked with dozens of talented artists, most from New York City, each following their passion, hoping that somehow the stars would line up just so, and that they would soon be discovered. I am now in their shoes, waiting, wondering, praying that the Right Person will find my work at the Right Time. I know (because I’ve seen it first hand) that talent, timing, and luck must all align. I feel like Danny King, my protagonist, who is aching to find the love of his life, as I wait patiently for query letters to be answered. I want to shout from the rooftops: You’ll like me. You’ll really like me. Just read me!
Meanwhile, and here’s where my husband gets worried that I might cross that line from being optimistic into psychotically delusional, as I refine, polish, perfect my novel, and WAIT, PATIENTLY, I am hereby revealing the pictures that helped me along the way to create realistic neighborhoods and characters. Above are three locations from my book. Below are the faces who have become my imaginary friends. But, don’t worry about me (I keep telling my husband this), this is merely the vision board in my writing studio. (tee hee)
Daniel King: 38, former “King of Wall Street,” now rebuilding his life as a student and a waiter in Brooklyn; receives a cryptic message suggesting that his business was sabotaged; becomes obsessed with finding the truth behind his downfall, and meeting Lily, the girl who captivates his heart.
Lily Frances White: 27, darling, dysfunctional, successful young artist; for starters, she has issues with her parents, “They named me Lily White. I’m just paying them back.” Also has issues with drugs, monogamy, and consequently her boyfriend, Louis.
Louis Landry: 42, Lily’s British boyfriend; extremely wealthy, world-famous artist, irreverent, and totally narked when Lily betrays him. Yet, still, he wants her back.
Nikhil Kapur, 38, Danny’s longtime best friend, “the only friend who hasn’t crossed him yet;” met at Harvard Business School; now a commercial realtor in New York. Nik is married to Nina, a doctor. The two own (and live in) the condominium in Brooklyn where Danny now lives.
Shawn Sutter: Sly? or is he just nervous and insecure?
Carl: Danny’s best friend and savior. The hero of That Changes Everything.