Remember that song by Kool and The Gang? “There’s a party goin’ on right here!”
The words to that happy song are running through my mind over and over these recent days because I, Janice Gilbertson, novelist, am celebrating. Pen-L Publishing, Fayetteville, Ark. has accepted my book, Summer of ’58 (working title) for publication. I have cradled this baby in my heart for a long, long time and now I will be turning it over to someone else. We, Pen-L and I, will be giving my story its last polishing and then launching it into the vast and exciting readers’ world!
I have been writing Summer for decades. No, I am kidding you but the story did begin several years ago. It is the story of a girl named Angela, and that is how those who know the book (first readers and editors) came to refer to it: Angela. First I wrote a poem about a girl who traveled with her rodeo riding father, which then led to a short story about her (published in my chapbook “Riding In”). Eventually it came to me that Angela had so much more to share about her life and the novel began.
Summer of ’58 is my first novel. I honestly do not know how many times I have edited the manuscript but many, believe me. This novel has been my teacher. Writing it, building it, knocking it down and repairing it, forced me to go outside myself and seek thoughts and opinions from writers, editors and readers. The more driven I became to write a good story, the more I reached out for the knowledge that would help me accomplish it. Along the way, when I thought the manuscript was good enough, I would send out my queries to agents and publishers who I spent hours finding and researching. Rejection began to feel normal as those “Thanks, but no thanks” replies stacked up.
At one point I almost convinced myself that Summer would never be picked up. I remember the day I printed out the manuscript, put it in a file folder and slipped it away in a bottom desk drawer. I went on from there writing my second novel The Canyon House. Some days, I thought I could hear poor Angela calling to me from that desk drawer. Months went by and occasionally I would get another helpful suggestion from someone whose opinion about my writing was important to me. My first readers and editors didn’t want Angela to live in that drawer.
So, out it came. I edited again and again and made some very significant changes. The manuscript read better each time. I knew in my heart I had a great manuscript and if the right agent or publisher read the story it would one day be a book. Then, at the Western Writers of America conference in Sacramento, a mutual friend introduced me to Duke Pennell and he agreed to read my manuscript. He didn’t ask for a query or synopsis. He wanted to read the manuscript. His letter to me said,” Dear Janice, I’ve read over your manuscript and enjoyed it.”
Now I begin the next phase of the journey. NOW the work begins. More edits, decisions about how the book will look, etc. I have so much to learn about book marketing that at first I was nervous and worried that I couldn’t do a good enough job. But that tickle of fear has passed and I am gearing up! I am going to make Pen-L and ALL those wonderful people who have spurred me on and given me the confidence I needed proud enough to cheer.