Once upon a time, a few years ago really, I wrote a novel. I had written two nonfiction books about my home town, and, as a lifelong scribbler, somehow always thought I'd write a novel. I had been through some difficult days, revolving around the return to the utopian community of my childhood and attempting to inform its new citizens of its history, in which they had little to no interest. I had been educated in a radical progressive school that was now fighting for its life in a town that had grown to be upscale, uninformed, and snobbish. I saw my mission as restoring the magic of the past.

My two nonfiction books, Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree and The Fair Hope of Heaven met with moderate success. The first had been published for me gratis by a local vanity press but when I came up with the second, basically an update of the first, the publisher balked, rightly judging that it would sell less than a thousand copies and he'd never make his nut back. So I self-published, went in the hole a bit, but have enough copies in a friend's garage that I'll probably eventually do a little better than break even.

In the meantime, I got involved in a nightmare scenario at my old alma mater. I was chairman of the Board of Managers, and it became obvious that the director we'd hired was not good at anything but her own public relations--she had convinced the parents of children enrolled that her presence was keeping the school afloat. The job fell to me to fire and replace her, while she organized the parents to do their best to get me removed from the Board and reinstate her. There were villains aplenty, and all I and the Board wanted to do was put a good director in place and restore the school to its mission of providing a solid, child-centered, stress-free education.

I felt inspired to fictionalize the story--to time-machine myself back to 1921, at the height of the little school's fame and fortune, when the town abounded with reformers and nonconformists. I wanted to write my novel in the style of Edith Wharton, all very formal and elegant, about a young woman in the 1920s who sees herself as a New Woman, and moves to my little town to be in the vanguard of educational reform. I used real people in my story, and for the fiction part, I created a broken man who wanted nothing more that to assassinate the inspiring woman who founded the school. (To be honest, i stole the fake assassination story from the movie Young Victoria, in which a dashing Prince Albert shields his lady from a bullet--an incident which never happened).

It was clear I didn't know how to write like Edith Wharton. I didn't even know how to construct a novel. I did my best, worked and reworked it, paid an editor to help me with rewrites, Sent it off to about four dozen agents and got only standard rejection letters. Finally my struggle to get a publisher came to an end and I published it under my own imprint  as both an eBook and a paperback. I used my maiden name as my nom de plume, because I've always felt that was really my name, no matter how many husbands have come and gone.

I got good reviews locally. Luckily for me the local newspaper didn't go 100 per cent digital until about a month after That Was Tomorrow hit the presses. I went to book signings and did interviews. However, the book never found its feet in any particular market, good as it may be. Being self-published only a few indie bookstores would carry it. I urged readers to submit reviews on amazon, which many did. I did a lot of self-promotion on Facebook, and got an email from an acquaintance who totally astonished me by saying she had read the book and decided, since she was preparing to retire from the public school system, that she would apply for the job of director of our old school--the job was becoming available again.

So my little book had some positive effect! I was thrilled at that.

Then, a Facebook friend, a black police officer in Tuscaloosa, begged me to send him an autographed copy. He was a sweet, church-going guy--really not the demographic I thought That Was Tomorrow would appeal to. I thought he was just being nice. Then he kept posting on Facebook how he was enjoying this book he was reading...and he posted a review on the page I had created on Facebook. Try as I did I never got him to post on amazon, but I think it just slipped away from him.

About a year later, he began writing how he wanted to write a book. Sure, Anthony. Go ahead, I thought, realizing he was totally unaware of the difficulty. About three months ago he sent me a private message asking if I'd co-write his book for him. I told him there was no way I'd do that, but if he actually wrote something, I would read it and make suggestions.

I've written here about my journey with Anthony. he's a natural, full of stories, a fast study and his book is full of action, violence, romance and fun. He's a joy to work with. I'm hoping to help him shape his book into a powerhouse that will sell in the thousands. (I know that doesn't sound like much, but my experience has been that "in the hundreds" is about all I can expect.) He's writing in a very popular genre, which I wasn't, and he has an authentic cop's voice. I know a little about where to pitch his tale, and I hope I can be of help.

And he has an exciting story too. But in my mind, I'm sitting with him in an interview, with Tavis Smiley, say, holding up That Was Tomorrow, as he's holding up Twist of Justice, and we're telling the story of how one little book can help a big one, and how this black-white cooperation and collaboration can truly work.

Views: 147

Comment by JMac1949 Memories on May 8, 2015 at 3:49pm

R&L ;-)

Comment by koshersalaami on May 9, 2015 at 10:25am

Hope your school comes out OK and I guess you'll keep us posted on Anthony

Comment by Mary Lois Adshead on May 9, 2015 at 12:16pm

Ah, the school, kosh. I'm out of it now, but it continues in a rather placid period, still enduring under  reduced circumstances. That Was Tomorrow is a paean to its days of glory--before I was born, when it was still under the guiding hand of its genius founder. Anthony and I are going great guns, and I have high hopes for his book. You'll definitely hear when it comes out--and if we get on Tavis Smiley or if Oprah does a special on our collaboration! Makes me happy to dream, anyway.

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 9, 2015 at 4:36pm

Mary, I enjoyed reading your book! It was fun to learn about your area of Alabama and the era of Organic Education you wrote your story in.

I was surrounded by various progressive educators growing up, reaped the benefits in the early to mid-70s blossoming of educational thought (even if other parts of my childhood felt like the opposite end of the spectrum from a liberal broadening of the mind) - also spent many hours lost in Louisa May Alcott's series of books.... choices and methods of various progressive, alternative, educational paths have interested me most of my life, although I am not a blind believer. 

Thank goodness for people like Marietta Johnson and my neighbors back in the day who understand a child's mind - and I did appreciate that you touched on the darker sides of idealism and more freedom in thought and reality, that nothing is perfect.

Regardless of the ideals, how lucky, I often think, those who receive an enriched, integrated education of academics with music, art, theater, dance. 

Comment by Mary Lois Adshead on May 9, 2015 at 5:24pm

So glad you liked the book, Anna. I've been holding my breath...check out the reviews on amazon (and if so inspired, I'd love it if you "Liked" one or two, and maybe even contribute a brief one!) Thanks for your kind words.

Comment by Poor Woman on May 10, 2015 at 8:49pm

Best wishes fo the school and your literary friend, Anthony.

(Has he written anything here?)


Comment by Mary Lois Adshead on May 11, 2015 at 4:07am

Poor, I posted the rough draft of the first four pages of his novel in my blog post "Anthony Moves Forward." Check it out and let me know what you think! It's a work in progress, but he's a quick study, all right.

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 17, 2015 at 3:50pm

Mary, just returning to see if there was a reply. Sorry to take awhile to get back here.

Since you bring up Amazon reviews again, I want you to know I don't do online reviews at all on book sites - nothing personal to you or your book.

In my work I buy a lot of books for all kinds of research reasons and I just cannot put my personal taste opinions online.

In case I offended you by not leaving a review, that is why. Feel free to send anyone to my comment here, for a review, but I do have to be careful of my work situations and so cannot help you with my favorable view of your book over at Amazon. 

Comment by Mary Lois Adshead on May 17, 2015 at 4:47pm

I understand. Just thought I'd ask.

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 17, 2015 at 6:08pm

Of course!

I would, too  : )


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