Friday, April 6, 2007


One of the most frustrating aspects of writing and getting published is waiting. I write my story, submit it and the agony begins. In spite of my fantasies, my editor does not rip open the envelope with shaking hands and fast beating heart. She has a few other things to do. Time passes. (months) I move on to other projects as instructed at all those writing workshops. My editor reads and shares with others at the publishing house. More months pass.

One day I check the mail (or email) and open with shaking hands and fast-beating heart. My editor wants changes!!!! Nearly a year passes as I revise, do more research, revise, resubmit, and wait again. Finally (most likely after more requests for revisions), I get the call that says my story is being accepted for publication. Relief! Joy! And yes, more waiting!

Publication is more than a year away.

Waiting is hard. I really do hate it! But I'm learning that while in many ways, time seems like the enemy, in reality, it's often on my side. The photos posted here illustrate this for me. The first is of kudzu [also known as the "Mile a Minute Vine" because it grows so fast (a foot a day)]. I'm fascinated by the monster shapes that kudzu creates as it gobbles up trees, power poles, and abandoned buildings.

I thought kudzu was a perfect metaphor for the dangers that threatened Ann Fay Honeycutt in my '06 novel, BLUE about polio and WWII. So the monster vine sprang up in the first draft and worked beautifully for me all the way up to the moment that the accepted manuscript went off to meet the copyeditor.

Several years had passed by this time (like I said - book writing and publication take a loooooong time). Then, suddenly, after the manuscript had been sent to the copyeditor, I began to have ambivalent feelings about kudzu as a metaphor. I started worrying that it made my story too much like another polio story I'd read. Maybe I should switch to another fast growing vine - poison ivy, maybe? Honeysuckle?

It was April by this time. North Carolina was busting out in springtime. Hubby and I were out walking in our "back 40"when I realized that the perfect vine to replace kudzu in my story was wisteria. This dramatic, invasive vine blooms only for a short while but when it does the surrounding vegetation is suddenly draped in sweet smelling purple blossoms.

Or are they blue?

Color is one of the reasons wisteria worked so well for me. More importantly, I loved that the plant was both beautiful and invasive. These combined qualities made it more psychologically threatening than even the greedy kudzu.

But frankly, I would not have discovered this if it were not for all the time the book process was taking. And for timing. At precisely the moment I was pondering a change of invasive vines, wisteria started blooming along our walking trail. (We are looking at a two week window in April here.) If the book had been scheduled for publication any sooner I would have missed the wisteria connection altogether.

With every book or story I submit to an editor, I discover the dreaded wait. I still hate it but I'm learning to appreciate that beautiful things come to those who wait. If you don't believe me, check out the wisteria below.

And tell me, is it purple or is it blue?


  1. I can't wait (no pun intended) to show Kayla this entry. She recently read a book about the "Mile a Minute Vine" for school and I was trying to describe the kudzu we grew up seeing in North Carolina. Now I can show her a real picture of the vine. It looks just like I remember it.

    I'd say the finished product of BLUE was well worth the "wait".

    Now your reading audience must patiently or not so patiently wait for the sequel.
    Jeannie Smith

  2. I have some more cool pictures of kudzu. By the way, if you double click on the pic the kudzu GROWS!

    See - it is a mile a minute!

    I love how it's on both sides of the road.