The publishing world is in a muddle. Celebrities write "fiction" and get hefty advances while good books go unpublished and editorial staffs are pared and the phone doesn't ring in agents' offices.
"Are you still writing?" friends ask me.
"Of course," I reply.
I wasn't published until I was 50. I had been writing and rewriting and rewriting for four years. Every year at Thanksgiving my brother-in-law would ask me when I thought I'd get a book published.
"Soon," I'd reply.
"If you were going to get published, you'd have been published by now," he'd bite back. "Know what I think? You're too old."
Old at fifty. The new demographic: an army of fifty-year-olds languishing in old folks' homes, winding macramé into pot holders, talking back to the television, putting their dentures in glasses before they go to bed, waiting for the kids to call, waiting for the grandkids to thank them for Christmas presents they don't like. Waiting. On hold. Watching the calendar. Preparing to die.
"That's the way the cookie crumbles," my uncle said when he turned up with the cancer in his ear and stopped doing everything he liked to do. "Can't fight reality."
In the six years it took my uncle to die, he could have done lots of things. He could have taken that longed-for trip to China, could have bicycled around Italy, could have dug out his old cornet and given a concert for his fellow Shriners.
Cancer didn't get him. Age didn't get him. It was his mistaken notion of what reality is that sucked the life out of him.
So while the publishers whimper and moan and have no idea what to do about their shrinking units, I'm writing a new book. Title: The Queen of Annam's Daughter.
Excerpt: "Good luck is in the air, so fat and juicy Anh can almost reach out and grab it and stuff it in her purse. No joke. Didn't the fortune teller on Friday say good luck was waiting for Anh around the corner? Didn't she say go buy Lotto tickets on Tuesday, Tuesday's the day your luck is going to come and sit in your lap? Didn't she? She even picked the store for Anh to go to to buy the Lotto tickets. The mini mart on Bolsa and Magnolia - not the one with the blue sign behind the doughnut shop - that one's bad luck, she said - the one in the corner facing the noodle shop - and get there early, she said, so someone else's good luck doesn't swallow yours up."
Copyright Nina Vida 2009
I can be found on Facebook, Red Room, my blog Nina Vida on Writing, and ninavida.com.