Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Surprising Collaboration

What do you think of the young woman you once were? Do you respect her? Do you like her? Is
there anything she wants to tell you? Anything she wants you to do for her?

Until the last few years, I didn’t give much consideration to my young-adult self because, to be honest, I didn’t much respect her. I discounted her importance in my life.

Why didn’t I respect her? Well… she was young. She didn’t know much. She had some priorities I don’t agree with.

For example: she often confused the desire to be loved with actual love. That confusion got us into some relationships that now seem like a waste of time. She valued other people’s opinions too highly. She didn’t know how to take care of herself, and not taking care of her self meant not taking care of me. I’m kind of mad at her for that. She put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own.

I know what she would say in her defense. She was a teenager—of course teenage girls are all about what others think of them—and then she was the mother of young children. Mothers have to put their kids’ needs first, right? Yes, right, I get that. Also (more of her defense) she and my husband had a business that needed attention 24/7. I should be thanking her (she would say) for her hard work, because it contributed to the financial security that gives me time to write now. Well, yes, but still…
My kids are grown now, and I’m retired—except for this writing thing—so it’s easier for me to define and enforce boundaries than it was for her, but really I don’t think she even knew what boundaries were, and I don’t think she knew she deserved to have some.

Anyway, this young woman from whom I’ve been somewhat estranged, had at least one passion that was so strong she found time to indulge it. She wanted to be a writer. She wrote a few magazine articles that were published; she wrote a sort of Erma-Bombeckish weekly gardening column in the local newspaper; and she drafted three romance novels.

I have to admire her for that. When she drafted those novels, she was living in a one-room cabin with two small bedrooms for the children partitioned off behind the wood stove. (The bedroom she shared with our husband was an open loft above the rest of the cabin.) So she had no privacy, no quiet, and no time to herself. Still, she wrote. She wrote until one day the other demands on her time were just too great. She stashed all her manuscripts in a banana box and put them in the garden shed.

Those three unfinished novels sat in that banana box and were moved to various basements, attics and garages over a period of twenty-five years until a year and a half ago when I decided to dig them out and have a look at them.

I’d just finished work on a non-fiction book, Touching Bellies, Touching Lives (published under my married name, Judy Gabriel), and I missed writing, so I thought I’d see about those unfinished novels. The box was brim full with so many revisions all thrown in randomly, it was hard to see what I had. There were a few 3 ¼-inch disks (for those of you too young to remember, 3 1/4-inch disks were standard back then) at the bottom of the box. I bought a drive for those disks and began trying to sort through my old work.

It was odd to experience my material almost as if it had been written by someone else. I was impressed with Young-Me’s story-telling ability, but still I thought I could probably write better than she could. (Part of my lack of respect for her.) So I put the banana box back in the garage and began writing one of the stories again from scratch.
About thirty pages into the effort I was reminded that crafting a story is hard work. I decided I didn’t want to do that work all over again if I didn’t have to, so I went back to the old manuscript. My book, Escape from Behruz, published by The Wild Rose Press last spring, is the original story, as written by Young-Me, tweaked and in parts rewritten by Now-Me.

What happened while I worked with Young-Me’s writing is that I developed new respect for her. She wrote a beautiful story, one that only she could have envisioned. (Also, she was just back from living, working, and having a baby (!) in the Middle East, which is where the story is set, so the setting was fresh in her mind.) I love the story, and I came to love her for giving it to me. I realized I owed it to her to finish Escape from Behruz. When she packed those pages into that banana box, she was counting on me to do that for her someday.

So I did. I think we worked well together, she and I. When I hold the book in my hands now, I’m proud of what we achieved.

I’ve just finished a sequel, Midwife in Behruz (The Wild Rose Press, Nov. 1, 2017). This second book was written entirely by the woman I am now, but it would never have been conceived were it not for the inspiration I got from the woman I was then. I thank her for that gift.

There were two other novel-length manuscripts in that banana box. One, although it has some merits, doesn’t interest me now. The other one, however, a story set in Mexico, is lovely. So there’s one more manuscript written by Young-Me waiting for my attention.

I’ll have one more collaboration with the young woman who grew up to be me: one more opportunity to know her and grow my respect for her and integrate her better into my life.

Judy Meadows

Escape from Behruz on Sale now for .99 at Amazon, Nook, and Itunes


Jennifer Wilck said...

What a great perspective! I love how we all change based on our experiences. Good luck with the book.

Charlotte O'Shay said...

One person many lives

Sandra Tilley said...

The legacy lives on!

Ilona Fridl said...

Very well put! We are all the sum experiences of our lives. That makes better stories. Continued success!

Cat Dubie said...

Lots of truth in this post. We can't escape the person we were 25, 15, 10 years ago. Wishing you much success!