I am on the flight leaving New York, a bit moved by what just happened in the last 30 some hours.
As I was sitting at the gate I posted this on Facebook:
We all write alone, facing poor odds, always a dearth of support and troubling, maddening doubts. There are moments though when you can see you are making it. Your writing is getting stronger and you see your friends, those you have supported are making it. I know no other way in life to be--to be working with others and fighting along side of one another, all of us slowly emerging helping one another along the way.
I need to reflect though for a second in a longer format. Here's what I learned this past two days:
A writer can have their dreams come true, to get a chance to face the world with their novel in their arms in front of the world. You can feel the glee in their being. Their soul light and relaxed. They have their whole career in front of them. Book contracts, a cover of their choosing. A world to share your sensibilities.
Cara and I met in the summer of 2007, we both were writers filled with horrible and painful doubts but we helped one another because we believed in one another. At times she has believed in me more than I have believed in myself and I think, the opposite is true though I hesitate to speak for her.
I published a story of hers after reading it once. I knew then that her talent was evident and she would do something. She had then, as always will have a clear and powerful voice. She possesses amazing control and it frightened me how brilliantly she could write. I guess I can say after all that---I believed in Cara more than she believed in herself because when I called her up and said I wanted to publish it she called me a "psycho" and but agreed anyway. I knew that her doubt was great--like all of our doubts--but as Richard Bausch told me while I was at Mason's MFA, "it is your doubt that tells you whether you are any good."
Doubt is what makes you come up with a better plot, a stronger character, a more obsessive need to edit. However your doubt is not what keeps you from writing. What keeps you from writing is fear--fear of what someone else will say. Fear of them laughing at you. No one is laughing. It is easier for others to give and spread their fears and negativity than anything else known to man. Fear is a sickness in writers and too often many of us live off that fear and choose that instead of wishing to fight it by picking up another draft or starting a new story or novel. You must be fearless and embrace your doubt. Cara did that and watching it happen before my eyes, through the talks and updates and walks--it is like watching a dream come true. I could not be happier for this writer and all of you see why. I watched her conquer and overcome her fear. She possesses grace--no one--no one can ever take that away from her.
She worked hard, we talked a lot about her novel. About the plot, the characters and the world she was creating. She is an amazing writer and she works--she WORKS-- at her craft with a passion that has created a masterpiece.
I walked around this party last night and there were a few small groups. A group of industry types that I was very scared of. There were other writers and her professors that I was already in love with, and her family that I had heard so much about and was ready to be adopted by.
Her family adopted me and they hugged my wife and welcomed her too. She has a wonderful and loving brood that surrounds her. It was obvious that they supported her and believed passionately in her dreams.
Here is what I felt about those industry types at one of the biggest publishing houses in the world: they represent as much the hope of letters as any of us do. They were all warm, kind and passionate about what it is all of us do. They deserve our respect and our love.
I met Cara's editor, an amazing woman who was feeling unwell that night but told me after I walked her outside how much she believed in the novel. How much she respected and loved Cara's community. We stood bundled outside, her and I. She was not rushed and impatient in that New Yorker way. She wanted to thank me for what I'd done and how much she believed in Cara and we parted with kind and thoughtful goodbyes. I met one of her editor's assistants, a kind, sharp and affable woman whose pixie cut matched her warmth. She said, "The first day I started working for the senior editor she said to me 'you have to read this book (So Much Pretty) because I believe in it with my whole heart and what it represents.' So I did and when I was done, I understood way she meant. The novel changes and rearranged my world and I had to put it back together again." That is power. That is grace.
They all moved me. These were not all distant, above it all types that didn't understand our struggle to be heard. They are listening and I believe they are waiting for our work to arrive. Write all of you, write dammit. This happens. It happens!!
I left the party last night after video taping a funny bit with Cara that I'll post later. We got directions from another writer whose power you could see in her eyes, a fierceness and wisdom about the world; she gave us very accurate directions to the Path. We hugged everyone and we left. Outside in the world again after being on the move for over 18 hours.
Leslie and I walked onto the streets of New York, the city I left four years ago convinced that I missed my shot as a writer and that Our Stories would close within a year. I don't think I've ever admitted that but it is true. In exchange for no longer calling Gotham my home, I inherited a deep and powerful fear that I was done for. For the past three years I've been able to overcome that fear slowly by helping others with their stories and then gathering my strength to face my own writing. This journey was the last bit of my fear slipping away.
I left with my amazing wife who has been by my side for the past three, who "gets" the journal and supports my writing. My family is supportive and I believe in my community as they believe in me.
We walked with our bag rolling behind, through the streets of New York with funny hats and hunger for New York pizza.
I am not afraid anymore about what is to come in this career. I know that success exists one step removed from my life and if I can face all my doubts every day and write every damn day then there is little that can stop any of us.
Thank you all for supporting Our Stories through the years.
We aren't going anywhere and that fear and doubt stuff, well, we can help with that.
Alexis E Santí
EIC & Founder