Herman Melville said, “Don’t attempt to write a novel until you’re 40 because you don’t know a damned thing!” His apocryphal words were probably closer to, Aye, friend, life’s experience is ballast for the page, thus give it 2 score and a few years. But he was 27 when Typee was published and had been hunting sperm whales with pen & journal in hand for years.

I’ve been writing since I was 13 years old, my older brother’s departure to walk-the-Earth-and-become-a-shepherd-in-Kurdistan left a crater that could only be filled by the written word. Actually, the creative stimulus was most likely a temporary, hormonally-induced, depressive stage that has persisted for, oh, give or take about 30 years. Three decades of scribbling and sending off manuscripts to what I affectionately call The Void. Maybe one out a hundred times, I’d receive the requisite, “We liked your work, but feel it’s just not right for us.” As an aspiring/failed writer, you’ll be lucky to get a single line back from The Void. Like Nietzsche said, “Stare long into the Abyss and the abyss will stare into you.” Send out enough poetry, short stories and loooong pieces of social commentary disguised as fiction, and the Abyss starts to pile up.

Last week,The Void spoke. “We very much enjoyed your engaging book and would like to publish it.” I kept looking for the part that says, “but . . .” and was surprised when they offered a contract. Harvard Square Editions is a small publishing firm that promotes socially-conscious authors and they help first-timers like me get into the game. https://harvardsquareeditions.org/

I ran around in little circles like a poodle chasing a cat stalking a laser pointer, and washed all the dishes by hand, placed them back in the cupboard with the sudden realization that I had forgotten to use soap. Out came all the dishes, even did those dusty bowls on the top shelf, everything re-washed and dried. Excited much? I only broke two ceramic mugs.

For two years, I’ve been working on a 150,000-word manuscript entitled NOT YET. But it’s taken me 30 years to write. The only advice that ever worked was, “Keep Writing!” which is why every movie about an emerging author is like this:

Cinematic Opening Scene (cloudy morning on Cape Cod): woman sitting at desk in front of typewriter, mid-50’s, auburn hair up in a ponytail, coffee mug in hand, gazing out the window with a beach-side view.

…when it should be like this:

Realistic Opening Scene (evening after working a double shift at Denny’s): woman with laptop, slouched at kitchen table littered with unopened bills and dirty dishes, disheveled hair, bottle of wine in hand, yelling at kids to do their homework, commercials blaring from television, husband passed out on couch.

Both of these scenes introduce the writer’s experience -- for two hours, the entire film should be one-long take of the actress pounding away on her keyboard. That’s it, completely boring, no action, no drama. There’s no flood that threatens to wash away the first writer’s secluded and historic dune-shack outside of Provincetown. The noisy kids of the second writer don’t overdose on heroin. Just the sound of fingers racing across keys and a stiff neck at the end of the day. That’d be one honest film.

So, why celebrate when your work might actually be published? Affirmation after years of toil, approval of your voice as an artist, and potential income are none of the reasons. The toil has just begun because now you have to create an Author’s Platform and edit out at least half of your precious little novel; and, your voice is lost in a sea of a hundred thousand other writers; and, you’ll be lucky to buy a couch after the advance and royalties. Probably that green, cigarette-stained couch down the street with a FREE sign.

Maybe we celebrate because of the elusive words that every child wants to hear from their parents. “Good job, son," or "I’m proud of you, daughter.” As for me, I’m just glad they’re still alive for this.