Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Great American Novel

When I graduated from college with a degree in English, I was a literary snob. Not only that, I wanted to write the great American novel. Something to resonate through the ages, ripening over the expanse of time. You know what I mean - an Oprah pick.

So I began. Fingers to keyboard, mind open to exploration, a thesaurus at my side.

And Gertie Johnson arrived, filling my head with her personality. And the story began. Crusty, unpredictable, expanding her vocabulary with a-word-of-the-day, basically goofing off. Where did this come from? And it most definitely wasn't going to be the great American novel.

Oh, well. I'd have time later for the 'real' stuff. So I wrote what my editor told me was a cozy. And I continued to write more of them because it was fun. But something was missing. I felt kind of...well...silly for writing humorous romps instead of emotional sagas.

Until one day...
A letter arrived.
From a woman with breast cancer, who was going through the painful process of chemo, radiation, the works. She said only one thing could make her laugh throughout those scary months. And that was my Gertie and her stories.

And I so I really did write that great story after all.
At least for one woman.
And that's enough.

The End


Maggie Sefton said...

You hit on it, Deb. When I get letters and emails like that from readers telling me about how my stories had helped them get thru painful times, like one woman who said reading Kelly books helped her endure sitting at Walter Reed hospital while her son lay there, shattered by the Iraqi war and fighting for life. Wow. That's when we realize that more is happening with our novels than simply telling stories. We're helping to heal.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I had a crappy week last week, and the only things that made it bearable were knitting and Buzz Off. I had to wait 4 weeks for the book to be delivered (live in India), but it was well worth it. And now I have passed it onto my mother, because I think it has some home truths that she and I need to work on together.

Linda McDonald said...

I love this post Deb. Keep writing these stories that amuse, entertain, and touch us readers through the good times and the bad.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Sometimes the greatest gift a story can give a reader is escape. The chance to laugh when there hasn't been much laughter lately. A chance to be scared by something other than what's happening in the operating room down the hall. A chance to be somewhere else for a bit, immersed in problems that go away when we close the book. A chance to read a nice neat resolution at the end when life outside that book isn't offering any nice resolutions. A book that gives that gift to someone who needs it...I'd say that is a great novel.

But then, I've never watched Oprah.

Bookwoman said...

Linda said it all. The great American novel is one that touches the reader, in whatever way. Keep up the good work.

Deb Baker said...

Well said, everyone! And Rayna, thanks for letting me know. Is it possible we touch lives more than we know? I like that thought.

Rural View said...

Whenever my husband tells me reading novels is a waste of time, I remind him that good mysteries have gotten me through several lengthy days when he was in surgery and a time when he was not expected to live. Had I not had a good novel to let me escape a little, the reality would have been too much to bear.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

There is nothing like a mystery to help us when we need it. You and Gertie (and your subsequent books!) make a difference to people's lives, Deb.


Dru said...

When I feel down, it's the stories and the characters that puts a smile on my face and takes me to a good place.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post, Deb. Where would we all be without our beloved books as companions?

BTW, I made the Apple Gingersnap Crunch (created especially for BUZZ OFF) last weekend and it was a huge hit in our household. Will definitely be making it again this apple season! Thanks for posting the recipe, Deb!

Lynn in Texas

jbstanley said...

I love this post, Deb. I reminds us all what a great book really is! :)

Lover of Books said...

I love this post too. It doesn't have to be literary fiction to be great. The greatest book is one that made me laugh or cry and escape for awhile.


Laineshots said...

Okay, Deb, I'm going to be honest.

I have fibromyalgia. I hate talking about it, but the truth is, there are sometimes whole stretches of days when I am pushing myself to walk across the house a few times, and my whole body is screaming in pain. My brain is foggy, and I'm fighting very uncharacteristic depression.

The last three weeks have been one of those stretches. I've learned that when I have days like that, my best friend is a good book that I can dive into and forget the pain and frustration. Into this nasty stretch came Buzz Off! I got to laugh, work my brain, and feel good...and for that, I want to thank you. It's insignificant to the world, but to me, it was hugely important, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

Thank you, Deb.