Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

Meadowlark – Publication Announcement

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I Am Who They Were by Ashley Gilreath

I Am Who They Were by Ashley Gilreath

You know how writers are…they create themselves as they create their work. Or perhaps they create their work in order to create themselves. ~ Orson Scott Card

Grace and baby, circa 1911

Grace and baby, circa 1913

Ten years ago I had an idea to write a book. The stories that swirled through my childhood about my great-grandmother, Grace, lifted into a single question, “Mom, what about Grandma Grace and Paul?”

She stopped and looked at me, the threads of time that bind past, present, and future tightened. “I don’t know,” she said, and smiled. “But, I’ve always wondered.”

I wrote a book to find out.

What I could not have known at the time was the journey that writing Meadowlark would take me on, how those threads of time would draw so close that the supposed distinctions between past, present, and future smudged together like pastels on a porous page, creating new colors with equal elements of each, until I’d lived in these blended spaces for so long they became my reality. I could not have known in that moment, that Grace’s life would ultimately save my own.

Meadowlark was the book that should never have been written. Too much happened in my life as I wrote. Too much upheaval, too much transition, too much pain. And yet, I couldn’t stop writing. Like Gretel following the bread crumbs, I stumbled through the forest of my life, focusing on that next bread crumb that Grace left for me so many years before.

Not long after I started writing Meadowlark, for the first time in any of their lives, Wyatt, Luke, Wynn, and I were apart every other week through shared custody. One friend describes the time separate from her kids, “like walking around missing a limb.” My own experience echoes the thoughts of Elizabeth Stone, when she wrote that to have a child was to “…forever have your heart go walking around outside your body.” It feels wholly unnatural to be apart from your children. Crippling, really. How does one function when your heart is beating elsewhere?

Well, initially one doesn’t, come to find out. I failed miserably at even minimal functioning when my kids and I were apart. The separation and thought of a future living like this felt unbearable.  One night I called a wise, wise friend, Lynn, who’d lived this already, and said, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. There is no way in hell I can do this.”

“Yes, you can,” my wise, wise friend. “Use the time that you’re apart to create the best life possible for you all.”

In the terrifying and gut-lonely space created every other week when Wyatt, Luke, and Wynn left, I turned to Grace. When my mind and heart constricted into dark hardened kernels, Grace held each until they loosened through her story and expanded to allow air and light. I believed in Grace and her story, when I had lost all faith in my own. “Use the time that you’re apart to create the best life possible for you all,” sifted through the darkness. The night the kids left I crumbled, and the next morning I’d get up, hear Lynn’s words again, take Grace’s hand, and write—a concrete way to create a better life for us all.

Prairie

Prairie

Ten years of writing, editing, rejection after rejection from various publishing houses followed. I kept a now coffee-spattered, water-stained card with Winston Churchill’s quote above my desk, “Never, never, never give up.”

My literary agent and dear friend, Elizabeth Trupin-Pulli, believed in Grace. “Dawn, the rejection letters all follow the same vein—’The writing is beautiful, the story is incredible, it is just not the market of our publishing house.’ It’s the prairie. They don’t seem to get the prairie.”

The prairie herself is a primary character of Meadowlark. Anyone who has lived within this landscape knows that it can be no other way. The prairie is a visceral experience who demands primacy through sheer force of personality. We continued to look for a publisher who understood her.

Writing with ear plugs and scarf.

Writing with ear plugs and scarf.

During this time, I wrote to my dear friend and award-winning author, Laurie Jameson, and asked if she might give the manuscript a glance and write a blurb that I could share with future publishers. Busy with her own writing, she graciously agreed. I bundled up the hard-copy manuscript and sent it off to Texas. That quick glance turned into Laurie dedicated herself to months of editing suggestions to lift Grace’s story. Laurie’s wise suggestions honed and shaped the story to its essence. It involved months of editing for me, usually sitting at the kitchen table with ear plugs and a scarf wrapped around my head, as now teenage Wyatt, Luke, and Wynn, my new husband, Noé, and our highly-exuberant German Shepherd, Clyde, moved around me. Editing again at this stage was as much fun as rolling naked through broken glass. I knew it my heart that it had to be done. I trusted Laurie and I trusted myself. And there were the glimpses of beauty in the process, when I found myself so caught up in the prairie that I would lift my eyes and be disoriented to find myself in the high-desert of Santa Fe.

I made Noé promise that if anything happened to me, if I was randomly hit by a bus, that he would somehow make sure this book one day saw the light of day. “What?!” he said. “Don’t even say that.” I meant it, and he promised.

I continued to look for publishers who might understand the prairie. I looked through the list of novels that had won the WILLA Award in my writing community Women Writing the West. Through this process, I found Pronghorn Press and submitted a query. Editor Annette Chaudet understands the prairie. Her own exquisite editing eye demanded two more rounds of intense editing and writing. These editing suggestions created scenes that I now cannot imagine the book without.

A toast!

A toast!

Yesterday I received a signed contract from Pronghorn Press and can now announce that Meadowlark will be published in June/July 2013. I sat holding the contract in my hand, staring at it, not saying anything. I didn’t trust myself. The book that should never have been written, rejected time and again by NYC publishing houses, will soon see the light of day. Noé and I raised our glasses to toast Meadowlark, Pronghorn Press, and life.

I love to read about writers’ histories with writing. I especially love those writers whose publishing career began in their 40’s, Madeleine L’Engle and Isabel Allende top the list. These stories gave me hope through the round after round of rejections. Madeleine L’Engle wrote of receiving a rejection on her 40th birthday, putting a towel over her typewriter, sure she should just give up, putting her head on the table to weep, only to realize that in her head she was writing a scene of a writer receiving a rejection. She threw the towel off and wrote, and didn’t stop writing for the next 50 years. Isabel Allende’s first novel The House of Spirits was published in her early 40s. It started as a letter to her grandfather who was dying and whom she could not visit, because she was living in exile outside of Chile. She wrote it in her closet, after her family went to sleep at night. I just celebrated my 45th birthday. In the fable of the tortoise and the hare of my writing life, I am in all ways the tortoise.

The first half of my life has been one of searching and surviving. As I enter the second half of my life, I fill with a sense of deep gratitude for the place where I now find myself, the elusive place I had given up hope to ever find. A place of family, stability, and home. A place of peace. A place where I can at last settle in deeply to love, live, and write. I feel at last there is traction under me, where for so long my wheels spun in the air.

A surprise celebration.

A surprise celebration.

One never knows what the future will bring. This is perhaps the one truth that life has taught me. So for now, I’ll just enjoy the moment. Yesterday evening after receiving the contract, Noé and I were each at work on our own projects. I had started this piece to share the news with you, and Noé was outside putting together some shelves for our garden tools. He said it was like someone tapped him gently on the shoulder, “Hey, what are you doing? This is a moment to celebrate!” The threads of time binding past, present, and future tightened again. I know that shoulder tap was Grace or Paul. Minutes later, Noé and I were dressed, and out the door. I dressed so quickly that after running gel through my hair, I realized it didn’t smell like it usually did. I looked at whatever tube I’d grabbed, and realized that I had just styled my hair with shaving gel.

The waiter at the restaurant asked what we were celebrating, and later surprised me with a gorgeous ice-cream dessert, complete with whipped cream, strawberries, and a candle to honor my book. We never know what life will bring. This moment that for so many years I thought might never come still feels somewhat unreal.

The sixteen-year-old bride who lived a century ago continues to take me by the hand. I’ll follow.

Thank you, Grace. For everything.

* * *

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Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

87 thoughts on “Meadowlark – Publication Announcement

  1. Very inspiring Dawn. Nice to read about perseverance, whoa sounds like intense editing, good for you! And I enjoyed the nest piece as well. Thank you.

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  3. Josette, I was just thinking yesterday how grateful I am that Mary connected us. What a blessing! Thank you so much for taking the time to share the journey of Meadowlark. This means so very much to me. Blessings and blessings to you, too, dear Josette. Love, Dawn

  4. I just want to say that I am now at the “Noé and I raised our glasses to toast Meadowlark, Pronghorn Press, and life.”, part and tears have welled up in my eyes. Inspiring Dawn! I’m so happy to finally have the time to dig into your story. And I am so grateful that Mary connected us. Your persistence and courage is illuminating and sends us all blessings. Blessings to you my dear. – Josette

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  7. I picture Grace as a woman who lived life with her eyes on the horizon. What did she feel, see, and think about? I can’t wait to find out! Congratulation,e Birch Anne

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  12. Dawn
    I have tears in my eyes for you. I remember the scarf, earplug scenario well. I had pulled in your drive that day to return something or deliver something? Noe was just standing there. Just standing there. I looked blankly at him. “I can’t go in the house right now, Dawn is finishing her book with a towel on her head and earplugs.” or something like that. “So, here I am.” It’s not word for word, but I will remember the moment and smile.
    Love,
    Rosemary

  13. What an inspiration you are Dawn! Congratulations and I look forward to reading your story. You are so creative and talented:)
    Love,
    Sharon

  14. I am so happy for you, Dawn! Not just about the book but about your life. Congratulations on being blessed to love, live, and write.
    Big up respect,
    Carole

  15. Dear Dawn,

    Your story is so moving – you are an obvious proser! I look forward to the release of your book. Brava!

    Denise

    • Dear Denise,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to connect and for all you say. When the book comes out, we’ll do something to celebrate here in Santa Fe!
      Huge hugs,
      Dawn

  16. Dawn,

    The photo of you during your celebration says it all. You have gone through your painful journey, and your persistence has paid off. You look absolutely shining and filled with joy. And it’s obvious that your family is your mainstay, so share your love with your beautiful family always, while staying on your path of self fulfillment and growth.

    Eager to read your book, and sending hugs,
    Sheila

    • Sheila,
      I am so thankful that Noé thought of going out to celebrate! It actually hadn’t entered my mind and I was perfectly content writing at the kitchen table. It was such a special occasion and such fun!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write and for all you say here. This goes straight to my heart.
      Big hugs,
      Dawn

  17. Congratulations Dawn! Delight and I look forward to purchasing your book when it comes out.

    I remember being in a bookstore in Gunnison, Colorado where Evelyn lives. A group of women came into the store and one asked, “Where is it?” The proprietor reached under her counter and pulled out a box and set it in front of the woman. Her friends stood around her and watched as she carefully opened the box and took out one of the books. This was the day she saw her first book in printed form. She was smiling and crying. I watched quietly. After some time I stepped over to her and asked “This is your first book? This is the first time you’ve seen it?” She had this incredulous look on her face as she said, “YES! It’s HERE!”
    I asked if I could buy one. She held the book to her chest and asked, “You…want to…buy my book?!?” It was an honor to be part of that.

    Congratulations Dawn…I know I said that already.

    Peter and Delight

    • Dear Peter and Delight,
      Oh, thank you so much for taking the time to write and share this story. I can absolutely identify with the smiles, tears, joy, and sense of incredulity of that author. This story makes me smile and smile.
      I so look forward to being able to share Meadowlark with you.
      Much love,
      Dawn

  18. Congratulations on your book being published. You are inspiring to me in so many ways. I am excited to read it when it is available. We will have to make sure the Singing Wind Bookshop in Benson knows about it. She loves to show off the local authors. You are an amazing woman!

    • Dear Christina, Oh, great minds…. I was just thinking yesterday how I needed to call Winn Bundy at Singing Wind Bookshop. Perhaps we could do something there for all of us Benson/Cascabel people? I’m thinking that if you’re thinking this and I’m thinking this, that I will call her today. Wouldn’t that be lovely to be together? I’ll call her now. Thanks so much. Much love to you.

  19. Gracias por compartir. Felicitaciones! No puedo esperar para leer tu libro.

  20. I am SO excited for you, Dawn! Congratulations.

  21. Oh Dawn, I am so happy for you!! What an amazing accomplishment and proof of ‘the stuff you are made of”! I will continue to write and look to you for my inspiration.
    Many hugs,
    Diane Solomon

    • Dear Diane, Thank you so much! Yes, please, please continue to write. Your own stories and art lift the world. I am so very grateful for you!
      Much love,
      Dawn

  22. Dear Dawn,

    Your story about writing Meadowlark has moved me greatly. Congratulations for persisting and for being published! I will definitely be ordering a copy.

    Love,
    Jane Stringfellow

    • Dear Jane,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to reach and connect about how Meadowlark moved you. This is so much of what also strengthened me to continue with Grace’s story – a feeling that her story reflects the human story of so many of us. Thank you.
      Love,
      Dawn

  23. I love this -“Editing again at this stage was as much fun as rolling naked through broken glass. ” You are brilliant!! Congratulations!!!!!

  24. Dawn, I just read your post on Meadowlark. What a story of persistence and believing in yourself and the power of the story! I remember walking with you in the preserve on the field trip, when you were looking for a publisher. I am so happy for you!!! Congratulations!

    You have waded through deep waters with Grace’s story and touched through the veil by her. I so look forward to reading the book later this summer…. Kirsi Sent from my Verizon Wireless Smartphone

    • Kirsi, Oh, wow…. we talked about this on the preserve on a field trip. I love that. Thank you so much for lifting that memory. Love that we shared that. I know you’ve waded your own deep waters. So grateful to share our journeys. xoxo

  25. Hi Dawn. It is your old Davis teaching buddy Renee. Karin told me about your blog and I signed up. I read this entry early this morning. I can remember years ago that you wanted to write a novel. I am just so so happy for you. I love the part about never giving up no matter what!

    • Renee, How wonderful to reconnect! How is life? I’ll pop you another note via email right now. Wow… so I guess it’s been longer than 10 years that this idea of a novel has been with me. Grace just had to let me know that it would be about her. Yes, never, never, never giving up.. I so look forward to hearing more about you and yours! love

  26. DAWN!!!!!!
    Beautiful, thank you for this amazingly hopeful post.
    CONGRATULATIONS!!! I cannot wait to read MEADOWLARK and meet Grace and Paul.
    *Hugs*

  27. Woo-hoo! I knew when you wrote about that last scene and how it came to you that MEADOWLARK would find it’s publisher. Congratulations! How beautiful to think of you and Noe raising a glass to this book that has brought you to a new life, that better life for all of you that you didn’t know you could create. Much love….

    • Dear Susan, “…a new life, that better life for all of you that you didn’t know you could create.” Such a blessing to share this new life, this better life with you. Woo-hoo is right! Much love…

  28. Congratulations! What wonderful news!

  29. Congratulations, Dawn!!! I am so proud of your persistence! You did what you knew you had to do with such . . . Grace!

    • Oh, thank you, thank you, Charlotte!!! Such a blessing to share this with you, who has shared so much of the journey through your presence, spirit, and… Grace.

  30. Congratulations, Dawn. As someone whose first book was published at 60, I know the rewards of following that long, difficult path. I also know, and continue to experience, the emotional journey of the editing process where solitude meets the response of others. How lucky we are when we find that other writer who can offer tough, intelligent notes. How agonizing it is to kill our babies. What a moment of revelation when we see how right the changes are. Now you begin the journey of promoting your book. That’s another full-time job where you need the support of your community. We are here for you.

    • Oh, Marsha, thank you so much for sharing your own writing/publishing story. Yes, “the rewards of following that long, difficult path.” This is so true about the blessing of finding another writer whose both heart and editing skills you trust. This allowed me to take great leaps of faith that truly served the story. Thank you so much for extending your support as Meadowlark is soon birthed. Thank you and thank you.

  31. What an inspirational story, Dawn! A great tribute to yourself for enduring and persevering despite life getting in the way sometimes. And what a testament to your grandmother, too, her hand a constant in yours at most turns to guide you through this process.

    I love the prairie, and am excited to have the chance to soon read about “her,” and Grace, in “Meadowlark.”

    Yes, I’d say the world is opening for you. Congratulations, my friend!

  32. I once sought a job that I wasn’t sure I would get but went for it anyway. I really wanted the job!! Well…I was chosen for the position and it lauched me into the next phase of my career. A dear friend of mine sent me a congratulations card that had a cartoon drawing of a knight on a white horse and it read “No Guts…”on the cover, then “No Glory!” inside the card. I have followed that premise several times in my life and it has been so true. So to you Dawn, congratualtions on the book. It took guts and now the feeling of fruition and glory. By the way, whipped cream IS the epitomy of celebration!!
    Barb

    • Dear Barb, “No Guts, No Glory.” Love it. Especially with whipped cream! Yes, I can absolutely see you following this premise. Thank you for that inspiration. My dad has often used the phrased, “Unarmed and unafraid.” With whipped cream. Much love to you

  33. DAWN!!  Congratulations!!  I remember reading a very early short story about Grace…”there would be a few more rats in the barn this year…” – can’t wait to BUY your book and read the whole story!!  I’m so, so happy for you 🙂

    ________________________________

    • SUSAN!! Can you believe it?! Lo those many, many years ago…….and a few more rats in the barn this year! 🙂 Can’t wait to get the book to you. Thank you so, so much for sharing in the Whole of the journey! Much love.

  34. Dear Dawn. So many congratulations and so much love. What a wonderful moment! I am so proud of you and your persistence and so grateful for your mentoring and modeling how to go.

    I adore the photo that you lead this post with. wow. And I see some of Grace in you, in the photo of her. There is indeed a resemblance. How sweet is that?!

    It is finally, finally spring break…. oosh. I am so, so tired. I am taking the dog and leaving to go camping for a few nights or a week. Headed toward Terry Tempest Williams country… the Grande Staircase Escalante… and some slickrock and nights under the stars. I can’t wait!

    I carry this deep sadness with me, and a hope too, that spring will come. I am slowly finding my way back to writing the kinds of things I need to write, and with permission finally to do this work, I believe the world will open up. ah. and somedays, all there is to do is cry. So to carry on through that as well. and pray. and love. and give thanks for the best of friends.

    Thanks! Congratulations!!!!

    Will on his way to the desert….

  35. Congratulations! I love a story of struggle that ends in celebration. Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey.

  36. What a lovely story of pain and redemption.

    Gail

    Sent from my iPhone

  37. Dawn,
    This is a wonderful story of perseverance. Good for you for sticking by Grace and for her inspiring you to reach this magnificent goal. Enjoy your very special accomplishment. I hope to read it in the future!
    Arletta

    • Dear Arletta,
      It’s wonderful to share the journey with other writers who walk this path. Thank you so much for all you do! It was lovely to actually go out and celebrate – even with shaving gel in my hair! 🙂 I look forward to sharing the book with you when it’s published.
      Smiles, Dawn

  38. Congratulations, Dawn! I can’t wait to read your book.

  39. Thanks for sharing this good news. Looking forward to having you and your book at the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference in November. Your story is an inspiration.

    • Dear Anne, Oh, how I’m looking forward to the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference! Thank you so much for including me. And congratulations on your upcoming “Spider Woman’s Daughter!” Your own story inspires me. Can’t wait to read!

  40. Dear Dawn,

    Beautiful . . . What a deep deep celebration.
    You are blossoming wide open !

    Sending you hugs,
    Kate

  41. So happy for you, Dawn. Your joy shines through your blog and lights the world.

  42. As I read of your journey, I was reminded of a quote I wrote in my journal by Calvin Coolidge. It took me a while to find it but it was rewarding for me to reread it…as I too am on a journey. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men (and women) with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” So, for all of us who congratualate you on this wonderful news, we are reminded to ‘press on’ with our own journies. Congratulations, Dawn and thanks for the reminder!

    • Dear Michael, Thank you so very much for sharing this quote by Calvin Coolidge. This is now going above my writing desk as a constant companion to reminding me of the essence of the journey. What a gift! Thank you so very much. I have been going back again and again to look at the photos of your journal that you shared. Such works of art and so inspiring. Thank you!

  43. Congratulations!
    I am looking forward to reading the book!

  44. I’m so happy for you, Dawn! Writing The Sandoval Sisters took a decade and Isabel Allende was an inspiration for me, too. The quote at the top of your piece is meaningful to all writers. I look forward to reading Grace’s story.

    • Oh, Sandra, I am so thankful to know that The Sandoval Sisters took a decade and that Isabel Allende was also an inspiration to you! I’m coming to understand ever more why I’ve felt so deeply drawn to your writing. Thank you so much for sharing your own story.

  45. So wonderful! Congratulations! We hardly wait to read it!!!

  46. That’s a wonderful story in itself, Dawn. Congratulations!

  47. Lovely, lovely Dawn! So exciting!

    Sent from my iPad

  48. Oh Dawn! Congratulations! What a wonderful story of perseverance the writing of Meadowlark is! I cannot wait to purchase and read your beautiful book! Love and hugs and kisses from California!

    • Dear Kristy, Thank you so very much for sharing this journey! I so look forward to your meeting Grace. Love and hugs and kisses from Santa Fe to you!

  49. Oh, Dawn, I am so happy for you in so many ways. Congratulations for finally being able to say you have a birthdate now set for Meadowlark for this summer! I’m so happy that this process of finding yourself turned into a vehicle for others to find themselves through your now eternal words. This will be one of many books, I’m sure. Forty five is so young and you have so many wonderful experiences ahead of you to write about! …..and, maybe someday a granddaughter who will write about you. 🙂 I can hardly wait to read Meadowlark and know Grace’s story. Life on the prairie is one of my favorite things to read about. It always has been. Here’s a big congratulatory hug!!!

    • Dear Kenna, Oh, to share this with you! Thank you so much for your belief in both Grace and me. I so look forward to sharing Grace’s story with you. I am so thankful that you and I have come into one another’s lives as Meadowlark comes into the world. To share this is a true blessing. I feel that congratulatory hug from here!!

  50. WONDERFUL, Dawn!!! Wish we could be there to celebrate with you! Having known you for at least 20 years and having followed a lot of the painful phases too, I can really appreciate the fulfilment, peace, development. – Waiting to read Meadowlark, and all the other books that follow. – Go to my homepage, to http://www.Tove-Skutnabb-Kangas.org/en/farm.html (we have to sell the farm – toll old, too much work) and choose all the flowers you deserve for this moment of joy. I love you! Tove

    • Dearest, dearest, Tove, Oh, this brings tears to my eyes to share this moment with YOU!! Thank you so very much for taking the time to write, and for sharing your own incredible spirit, wisdom, beauty, and flowers these past 20 years. I cherish the flowers from the farm. I cherish you. I love you! Dawn

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