Josepina (The Third Book in the trilogy of the Baretta family.)

America – I love the dream of what you could be and always believed I should play some small part in trying to shape you to keep the memory alive of justice, liberty and your immigrant history.

Great Nonna Josepina

Many have come to your shores with only a suitcase tied with string, a rosary, perhaps a favorite vase wrapped in newspaper, leaving a weeping mother behind.  Her tears are invisible to us, but I wonder, how did she let her children go to a strange new country, knowing she may never see them again?  Did she trust you would treat them tenderly – find comfort in knowing they would have enough to eat?

I imagine her heart continued to weep and the only prayer she had was to plead, over and over, bargaining with her God, down on her knees, pleading for her child’s safety.

Josepina, my great grandmother was just one of those mothers, standing on the shores of the Adriatic sea, watching her daughter, Constanza board the small boat that would take her to Bari to board a ship to America, never to see her again.  This is her story.

The Unpublished Years; Part Two

The Re-Write

Two months ago I went to a writer’s pitch conference in New York. A pitch conference is where real editors from real publishing houses come and listen to you pitch your book to them.  They sit and stare at you with not a flicker of an eye as you talk and smile and lean into them, trying to catch their interest, trying to see if this word or that description will make them twitch in suppressed surprise. As you can see, it was one of the most difficult moments of my writing life, so far.  (outside of sitting at my desk and trying to write.)

The first day, no one, not one editor blinked or smiled or looked as if they were even slightly interested in what I was pitching.  I went back to my small room that night and told my self that was fine.  I didn’t really come here for myself, I came for my writing partner.  She’s the real writer.  She has the eye of a poet and a gift for language that tugs at my heart and makes me want to write like her.  But I can’t.  I am a writer with limits, I tell myself.

It was only when I fell asleep, around 2am, that I had a dream.  And in the dream I saw myself pitching my book again, but this time, I cared, this time I was at the conference for myself.  I really did want to be here.  I wanted to get an editor to notice my work.  In the dream, I didn’t worry if they would publish it, I just wanted to flutter an eye, raise an eyebrow, see a look that said something caught their interest.

But the next day, the only eye that fluttered was mine own.  I was so tired, I had to continually blink to stay awake.  So much for my dream.  But that night, after the conference was over, I went to bed early and this time my dream was more concrete.  I was working on re-writing my pitch.  I woke that morning early, determined I would get noticed today.  My writing partner had already gotten three editors asking to see her manuscript.  Oh, it wasn’t easy not to feel like a loser.  To be honest, I did feel like a loser.

So, the only cure for feeling like a loser was to find a Kinko’s and write and re-write my pitch until I found the formula that would tell an editor what the story was about, give them an idea of who the main character was, what the conflict was and what kind of things the character had to overcome to be changed, to be able to move on, or to remain unlucky.

Of course I want this story to have a happy ending.  Most often it doesn’t, but this time, it did.  Two editors asked to see my work.

For me, it was the lesson of re-writing.  Re-writing saved me from being a loser.  I’ll take that for now.