And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This past Tuesday, my novel, All Told, was released. It’s my 12th book; sixth novel. I was asked if Book #12 is as exciting as Book #1.
I’ve known for my entire life that I’m a writer. I used to trace the pictures in my picture books and then rewrite the stories the way I felt they should be written. I didn’t apply the word “writer” to myself until the fifth grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Faticci, told me that’s what I was. I wrote about that in an earlier Moment. I didn’t connect what I liked to do – put words together with the pictures that rolled through my mind – with those wonderful books I read. When the word writer was given to me, I shuddered with joy. It was as much me as my name.
I started submitting to magazines when I was twelve years old. My first published piece appeared when I was fifteen as a four-part serial in the Catholic Herald Citizen, of all places. I rewrote the story of Christ in 70’s slang. When I went to college at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I tried making writing my hobby, and I majored in special education (with a focus on autism – that was fortuitous) and then social work. But the only thing that lit me up were my literature classes and my creative writing workshops. Against my parents’ will, I switched my major to writing, and again, felt like my name fit.
All along, my most favorite thing to write was the short story. My stories began to appear here, there, and everywhere. But it felt like the way to prove you were really a writer, you had to write a novel. And so I began to try.
After college, I joined a community education workshop led by Waukesha writer Ellen Hunnicutt. She became one of my most impactful mentors and cheerleaders. She told me that what made a writer a writer wasn’t talent. It was determination and discipline. So I settled in to be determined and disciplined. I never questioned that I had the talent. Writing is the only thing about myself that I’ve never questioned. Everything else…hoo boy.
My first novel wouldn’t be published until I was fifty years old.
I went through four agents. My last two were top-notch New York City agents. The third represented the book that would become, much later, In Grace’s Time. We were told the book was beautiful, but too “quiet”. After a year of submitting, she told me to shelve the book and try the next one. That was The Home For Wayward Clocks. When she read it, she told me it was stunning, but that she didn’t represent “dark” books.
So I had the choice of keeping my top-notch agent and writing another book, or firing her. I fired her.
A short time after agent #4 started submitting Clocks, we heard from an editor at Scribner’s. She loved the book, but said it needed editorial direction. She also felt it was too early in the submission process to give that direction, that someone else might take it as is. So my agent shopped it for a year, before she said, in a distinct echo from agent #3, to shelve the book and write another one. When I asked about re-submitting it to Scribner’s, she said she didn’t want me to do that, because often the editor lost interest in the time that it took to rewrite the book, and it was just a waste of energy. I was lucky at that time to be asked to be a graduate assistant for a residency at the college where I’d received my MFA in fiction (yes, I returned to grad school) and Wally Lamb was there too, as a speaker. We went to the same school. So I pulled Wally aside and asked for his advice.
He said, “New York editors don’t give second chances. Tell your agent that she works for you. Then set up a meeting with the editor. Listen carefully to what she wants to do and decide if you can do it. Then do it.” And that’s what I did.
The editor said she wanted me to change it from first person to third – EASY! – and she wanted me to bring out the “fairytale nature of the book.”
For six months, I rewrote the book. In that time, we were contacted by an editor from Algonquin who saw one of my stories and wondered if I had a novel. So now I had two waiting editors.
Both of them rejected Clocks. Scribner’s because she’d moved to a new publishing house and was no longer interested in literary fiction. And I honestly don’t remember why Algonquin said no.
So I was back to square one. Shelve the book and keep the agent? Or fire the agent?
I fired her. And I went out on my own. And then I sold it on my own. To a publisher who took it as is, no changes, and who said to me, “New York missed out on you.”
Determination and discipline, doncha know. Thank you, Ellen.
When The Home For Wayward Clocks came out, I was fifty years old. And then came Enlarged Hearts (short story collection), Learning To Tell (A Life)Time (novel, and the sequel to Clocks), Rise From The River (novel), Oddities & Endings; The Collected Stories Of Kathie Giorgio (short story collection), True Light Falls In Many Forms (poetry chapbook), In Grace’s Time (novel), Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News; A Collection of Spontaneous Essays (the first year of this blog, in book form), When You Finally Said No (poetry chapbook), If You Tame Me (novel), and No Matter Which Way You Look, There Is More To See (full-length collection of poetry). I’ve had three publishers.
And now…All Told. A novel. And my fourth publisher.
Throughout this time, many, many short stories, poems, and short memoir, were published in magazines and anthologies.
In August of this year, my poetry chapbook, Olivia In Five, Seven, Five; Autism In Haiku, will be released. Book #13.
I am putting the finishing touches on Book #14, a novel.
I am my name. Kathie Giorgio. Writer. It is not a hobby and never has been. It’s a life. A lifetime. I am never more happy than when I’m writing.
So back to the question at the beginning of this blog. Is Book #12 as exciting as Book #1? Yes, yes, yes. And Books #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Book #13 to come. Book #14 in progress.
Yes. It’s my name. It’s who I am. And there is nothing like feeling like you actually belong in your own skin.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
All Told is available pretty much everywhere. Look for it at your favorite bookseller. It will be launched at a special event for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival Of Books on January 27 at 7:00 p.m. central time. It is a Zoom event, so anyone from anywhere can come. I will be reading from the book, and then I’ll be interviewed by Jim Higgins, the books editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It’s a free event, but you need to register. Here’s how: https://www.booksco.com/event/kathie-giorgio-virtual-author-event-sewi
All 11 books.