Behind a Laurel Hedge

Okay, I misspoke–or mis-wrote–or even worse, mis-forecast my future a while back.  I said good bye to my readers, you folks who have been tuning in to Breakout Novel: A Race. . . on and off for several years.  I know about you because Google Analytics (a ghostly Google entity) has let me know that even after I gave my last hurrah to this project, some of you kept tuning in.

I’m back as a blogger.  I’m also back as emerging novelist, not that I haven’t been emerging for fifteen years or more until I decided to stop emerging. The reason is that my publisher has accepted a new story of mine, one that I wrote a year or so ago and gave up on because it didn’t have an old lady in it.  She will publish it in September, despite the fact that it doesn’t fit the Henlit model. No old ladies wander its pages, just memories of an old lady.  Me.

The time is about 1970;  the place is the postwar housing development I grew up in and left in l956 for marriage and who knew what. The small bungalows were built for returning veterans and for
shipyard workers like my father. Families had some money, probably for the first time in their lives. They could afford a new house, two bedrooms, one bath and yards big enough to build a garage in.  They were beginning again, this time without war. The future looked good. The neighborhood filled working husbands and wives who had time to make friends over morning coffee klatches.

But war continued, not THAT war, but the one in Korea, then Vietnam, then the Middle East.  When the first settlers in the development moved on, their old homes filled with new surges of veterans’ families glad to have a chance to begin again, to heal. Eleanor, old timer, white, in the neighborhood, meets  her new neighbor, Patsy, black, through a hole in the overgrown laurel hedge that separates their houses. Different wars, different colors, similar struggles. Their lives entangle, like the limbs of the hedge between them.

I really like this story. However, my publisher and I cannot agree on a title  My idea, You’ve Come to the Right Place is a copyrighted song title.  She says we can’t use it.  Do any of you have a suggestion?


I’ve had the fun of talking to four different book clubs in the past few months, the result of offering my words of wisdom about indi books, writing at an advanced age, street people, suicide, and last night we got into a great discussion about hemp milk.  A paper bottle of the stuff was offered to me and all I could think of saying was, “How does one milk a hemp?” The group was a lovely set of dieticians and medical  women, and the talk, as we enjoyed our vegetarian soup and salad, had veered away from  pedophilia, my subject, to nutrition, their subject.  It’s not polite to talk about bad things over dinner. 
They had, though, read Graffiti Grandma and when they asked how I knew so much about all those gritty things and people in the book, I answered as I always do:  “Google, of course.”  They seemed disappointed. I had not actually sat on curbs with street kids or wandered through Forest Park looking for a family’s camp.  And I had no answers for the homelessness we see on our urban streets. I was a little embarrassed.
It’s true that writers do not necessarily experience what they write about.  Their imaginations, their friends’ stories, and Google fill in the blanks.  I’m thinking of Hunger Games, and maybe Yellow Bird, two authorial flights into the What If world.  My latest book, Not There Yet, is such a flight, as I What-If’d my way into finding a dead husband in my bed on Christmas morning.  Not me, of course.  And certainly not Don, I assured him.  A whole story was built out of my imagination and supplemented with Google research into medications that could kill people without their knowing. Not There Yetis unfinished.  I have a couple of friends reading it who will let me know what I left out. Don is in a holding position, opinion-wise.
However, at this moment, I’m riding along on a crest of joy over the book that came out this month. UPRUSH. Once an ebook, I needed to touch and smell this story, so I re-titled it, formatted and published it as a paperback on Createspace, and when the proof came, despite its small imperfections of one sort or another, it was beautiful from the day it was born.  Inside and out.
It is a book based not on Google research, but on my own life and friendships.  Fictionalized, of course, the Lou character is not a lesbian, Jackie was only maybe a little infatuated with a priest, Joan didn’t end up with a philandering designer.  And the writer Madge does not have Alzheimer’s, although indications are that she may be wandering in that direction, my husband’s lost keys found in my pajamas this morning. The library in the Alzheimer’s center nearby helped me understand the disease, but that isn’t the story.  UPRUSH is focused on a question: How does one grow old and hold on to herself and her dreams in the process?
Once again, I don’t have the answer, but I’m not turning to Google to find it.

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