“Of course it was beautiful; but there was something more than beauty in it, something more stingingly splendid which had made beauty its handmaiden.”
― Jack London, Martin Eden
I received my first ‘nope’ from a publisher yesterday.
It wasn’t surprising. Getting rejections from publishers is a rite of passage for writers. It also didn’t feel good. But, that’s okay because after talking to the editor I realized he had made some valid points. Not the least of which is shelf life. If I turned in a finished manuscript today, by the time it was vetted, edited, printed and ready to go we’d probably be looking at this time next year before it would be ready to be on the shelves. And there’s a good chance it would get shelved until the following spring. That’s spring 2021.
Trump may or may not be out of office by then. If he is and cooler heads prevail much of what is going on at the border will be a painful memory. A memory that many would rather forget than read about. Americans don’t have much of an attention span these days. That’s a legitimate critique.
I’m working on figuring that out. What’s the bigger story? What would they want to read when this mess is done? I feel like in the end, this will have to somehow be about healing. The healing of hurts. The healing of slights. The healing that has to come before redemption.
I had plenty of time to think about that driving back from south Texas yesterday. I don’t necessarily have the answer yet, but much of what I’ve written so far is about people hurting people. It’s a story of pain and a story that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. It’s a story of families sacrificing and suffering much to make their lives better. It’s about being the underdog trying to navigate the immigration system only to have the goalpost moved every time it’s in sight.
If this was a movie, they’d win in the end. But, this isn’t a movie.
Most find out they never had a chance to win. The game was always rigged against them.
Meanwhile, a New Yorker with a foul mouth and a red ball cap is a hero to so many of my neighbors. A guy who made a career out of hurting others for his own benefit. A guy who wouldn’t lower himself to visit their small towns or sit in their kitchens drinking coffee. They’re looking for something, but I’m not sure what. Maybe they don’t notice the poverty that’s been creeping through this rural farmland like a blight. Maybe they don’t notice that the kids have to leave if they want to earn a living. Maybe they don’t notice the rise of hard drug use in these mountain valleys. Maybe they don’t notice how much local food banks can’t keep up with the demand. Maybe they don’t notice that fatalism has replaced hope and ambition. Maybe they don’t notice the institutions that were built to protect them are systematically being dismantled. Maybe they do notice and are just looking for someone to blame.
Maybe they don’t notice that the game is increasingly rigged against them as well.
Maybe they don’t notice that the people they’re cheering for are moving the goalposts.
Maybe they don’t realize that they’re throwing rocks at the people who are trying to tell them the truth.
Maybe they don’t notice how much they have in common with that family from Guatemala trapped on the border.
Maybe they don’t notice how close they are to being the same.
Maybe they don’t realize this isn’t a movie.
Maybe they don’t know that it can be better.
Maybe they don’t know it can be beautiful.
Maybe they don’t know we can heal.