Do I want this blog to be the story of the fiery, relentless energy of the ten years in which I produced five muse-inspired novels? The aching loss as the decade-long dream of being traditionally published got pounded down into nothingness?
The New Year is a great opportunity to end a pity party over what didn’t work, and move on. It’s what I did in January 2013 when my second ballet novel was on submission with editors, the third such process in four years, with the same discouraging results. I love writing novels; it was what I wanted to keep doing forever. But writing novel #6 wasn’t going well. Neither was writing #7. Or attempting revised versions of both. Hobbled by continued editorial rejection, my attempts to create new material felt awkward and disingenuous, like operating ventriloquists’ dummies where once there’d been flesh and blood characters. Alas, these are the perils of a creative vocation. The muse no-shows, for whatever reason, and you’re screwed, or at least embarrassed into silence about the dreck you’re producing. And what I missed, in truth, was writing about ballet and classical music, even as, fiction-wise, no new ideas had sprung up. Fine, I thought, a dance and music-related blog. That I could do, with or without editorial approval.
Nonfiction comes easier to me, and is not so heavily dependent on a muse. You show up to write each day, you work with diligence, you research to back up your glimmer of an idea, and eventually (for me, at least), out comes an essay or article. It doesn’t give me the same buzz as writing fiction. The latter is like a lover, the former the good friend always there for you, who makes you a cup of tea, lets you cry, then helps you brainstorm about Plan B.
I’m all for Plan Bs now. Maybe they don’t take me where I thought I was going, where I was so sure I was intended to go, where I really, really wanted to go. But they are taking me where life is pointing me, and they are showing me the way.
Back to my 2015 New Year’s resolution: it’s time to self-publish my ballet novels instead of letting them languish in the drawer. Come spring, dear reader, out goes the first one, Off Balance. In October of 2016, it will be followed by the sequel-but-not, Outside the Limelight. These are books 1 and 2 of “The Ballet Theatre Chronicles” series. They are, if you might not have guessed, ballet novels. Except not really. They are stories set in the ballet world, featuring not just dancers but ex-dancers, dance administrators and others involved with the performing arts world, or just the world in general. They feature characters from all walks of life, who are being forced to deal with the shit that’s landed on their plate. Whether you’re a dancer or not, face it, shit finds its way to you. How characters deal with their plateful of shit, how they use it to grow (shit is great fertilizer, you know), to transcend and be transformed, emerging with stronger relationships and a stronger sense of self—these are the stories I love to write.
While I’m up here at the mic, making noisy announcements I can’t take back, let’s add a few more resolutions. After the two “Ballet Theatre Chronicles” novels are out, I’ll publish my first novel, A Dancer’s Guide to Africa.* That novel’s been whispering to me a lot lately, coaxing me over to play around with it. I love when my older novels do that. They come back to life, however temporarily. In some ways, I feel as though all of my completed novels have been given a new lease on life, because I no longer need to write them in accordance with the demands of the Big 5** publishing editors. I’ve taken out of the story what I didn’t enjoy writing. I don’t groove on gloomy, edgy stories, sorrow-packed endings. Call me unsophisticated, but I like old fashioned romance tucked into my intelligent fiction. A little sex, good food descriptions, some escapism. An optimistic, satisfying ending. Apparently (um, clearly), traditional publishing doesn’t want to sell what I love to write.
And, hey. How’s about a Book 3 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles? Sure, why not?
Bye, bye, traditional publishing. (And am I still thinking this is such a loss for me?)
This is kind of scary, trumpeting out this news. Because it means that I’m going to have to do it. I’m that kind of person. My pride gets in there, and I dig my heels in. When I started this blog, two years ago, I said “minimum two years.” Those first six months, I was ready to quit, time and time again. But that pride thing made me keep at it. And now, I’m realizing that at the end of next month, I will have achieved my goal. Woo hoo!
So, consider it official. Classical Girl’s novels are going to step out into the world. Here’s what the lineup looks like:
- Off Balance, Book 1 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles – May 2015
- Outside the Limelight, Book 2 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles – October 2016
- A Dancer’s Guide to Africa, a novel – Oct 2, 2018
- Ballet Orphans – Book 3 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles (a prequel) – Fall 2020
- Little Understudies, Book 4 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles – TBA
- A Rebel’s Guide to Africa, a novel – TBA
Please join me, dear reader, in wishing all of us success in our Plan Bs, our New Year’s resolutions, and may 2015 bring us all health, prosperity and satisfaction in our work, families and lives.
* I blogged about and posted the opening chapter from A Dancer’s Guide to Africa, formerly titled Black Ivory Soul, last year. Wanna read? http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/classical-girls-black-ivory-soul/
** Big 5 publishers = Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster. Yes, them. The enemy. But I forgive you. I have a hunch I’ll do just fine without you.