How to Write and Publish a Novel in Only 12 Years
Writing my first book, Daddy, The Diary of an Expectant Father, was a breeze. From the day I was married until the day my son was born, I wrote one page day. Eleven and a half months later I had a kid and a book. My agent sold my manuscript on the 33rd try, and after I received my advance and paid my taxes, I handed the rest over to a publicist who booked me on Good Morning America and the Phil Donahue Show.
My book was excerpted in magazines, written up in US Today, and translated into German and Korean. I was a TV writer at the time and was hired to write a sit-com pilot based on my book.
A decade later I was divorced, teaching public school and responsible for 200 students, leaving me little time to write. Divorced and ready to re-enter the dating pool I decided to keep a journal focusing on my proactive search for the last great love of my life, who I imagined I would marry and who would be become a loving stepmother to my two teenage children.
Off I went seeking romance and writing about it. I figured my worst case scenario was that I would not find the woman for whom I was searching; but I might end up with another book.
And I did. But not the way I planned.
After a year, neither the romance nor the literature was working out. I gave up on both projects.
Weeks later, a high school friend wrote and informed me that he had given my email address to a beautiful, single woman who he had been friends with 25 years earlier. She wrote and suggested we correspond.
Amy, my new correspondent, lived in Ottawa, Canada and believed that I lived in NYC, within visiting distance. But I lived in LA, a mere 3200 miles away. I figured there was no harm in continuing our on-line relationship since I rarely fly and doubted we would ever meet.
Fifteen months later Amy Friedman, whose syndicated children’s column, Tell Me a Story, has been running for 20 years, moved to LA and we married.
A month after “I do,” I showed her my dating journal and asked if she thought there was a book in it. “Absolutely,” she said, “except you should turn it into a novel.”
“I’ve never written a novel,” I said.
“I have.” And she gave me a tutorial in fiction.
Five years later, I completed my dark, romantic comedy, A Short History of a Tall Jew. I wrote some mornings before work. Some afternoons on my lunch break. Some evenings when I did not have too many papers to grade. Always on weekends and holidays. Six months after completing my fourth draft, a NYC agent agreed to represent me. Six months and 26 rejections later he quit representing me. Every winter break and summer for the next five years I re-wrote.
I could not imagine dying with this manuscript unpublished. So I did something I had vowed I would never do: self-publish.
That process took another five months.
My first reading was held in May 2010 at The Village Bookstore in Pacific Palisades, CA and since then I have been invited to read/discuss my book at the Houston and Ft. Myers Jewish Book Festivals. I have given readings in bookstores, theatres, salons and saloons in LA, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Cleveland, Ohio, at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan on a February night when it snowed 19 inches and at a pool party/fundraiser in Northridge, California. I have received positive reviews (and one really ugly negative review). I have been invited to write for blogs like this one. I have been signed by an agent who is trying to sell the TV/movie rights. A blog I wrote for Huffington Post’s Divorce section quotes heavily from my novel. One can buy my novel on Amazon.com and on Kindle.
From the day I put pen to paper until the day I held a copy of the A Short History in my hand, 12 years elapsed.
I have yet not recouped my investment; maybe I will; maybe I won’t.
But other than running the AIDS Marathon (very slowly) in Hawaii, at age 53, writing and publishing my novel is the coolest thing I have ever done. And I am glad that when my agent quit sending it out, I overcame the depression that always comes with such rejection, and pushed on.
The difference between allowing my manuscript waste away in a desk drawer and preparing for the three readings I have booked this fall was never, never, never quitting.
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