Looking for an Angle
I’m looking for a crop of lavender, a trip to Italy/India/Bali or the desire to do something unique every day for a year to kick some life into my life. As the new school year approaches and I take a look at the prospects of the adventure that lies ahead-my three girls are now in middle school in the sixth and eighth grades-I realize I face another ten months of the same old, same old: homework, driving around town to soccer practices, games and dance lessons, the continued repercussions of divorce and a myriad of jobs to pay the bills. It may be busy but it’s not an exciting life I lead. In fact everyone else’s seems so much more interesting.
Just stroll through the many bookstores we have in town or scroll through the pages of Amazon.com. There are hundreds of writers who have taken their really interesting daily lives and translated them into books, some of which have ended up on the best-seller list, and changed the lives of the authors themselves in the process.
I need some kind of hook to make my life more interesting and then I need to write a book about it. Being the single mother of three kids is not enough to get publishers interested in my life; I need to incorporate some kind of twist, like growing crops in my back yard and then selling them to pay for the solar panels that will keep me off Alameda Power and Telecom’s grid for a year (for the sustainable living angle). Unfortunately, that seems to have been done before. Novelist Barbara Kingsolver published a non-fiction book with her husband and daughter called Animal, Mineral, Miracle about their sustainable life in Appalachia.
For some women, travel provided the catalyst for writing the best seller, but our summer trips to New Jersey, Boston and Vermont are not exotic or emotional enough. The most successful version of the scenario is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, an account of her yearlong travels in Italy, India and Bali to forget her own divorce and find herself. Not only does she find herself, she falls in love with the man of her dreams and writes the book that gets her on Oprah twice in one season. Julia Roberts is going to play her in the movie version of her life. How’s that for a kick in the pants? I would be really jealous, but in Gilbert’s earnest appearances on Oprah, she seems a little bewildered by her sudden fame and fortune. And, she is now living in New Jersey, so I have to like her.
It would be better if I moved to some rural destination and tried something new. In The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming, Jeannie Ralston followed her National Geographer photographer husband to the Hill Country of Texas and had to carry out his harebrained idea of growing lavender, just like they do in Provence, France. (Just imagine that late-night discussion at their dinner table. “Honey, I have this great idea…”) Sure enough, while said husband was away on assignment most of the time, Ralston not only worked to raise their young sons, reconverted a barn into a showcase home and still carried on her freelance writing for big national magazines, but also created a successful lavender business and converted a region in Texas to a lavender-growing axis.
Kingsolver advises would-be writers on her Web site, “…You’ve got to have some big, true THING you are dying to tell the world.” While my girls are either getting accustomed to a big middle school or making plans to finish eighth grade and start thinking about high school, I’ve decided to find my big, true thing and work on my book. I may need some time to determine the concept. How about this: single mother wind surfs every day for a year, discovers her inner Jacques Cousteau and saves the environment. I just don’t think “one woman’s quest to find excitement in Alameda” is a big enough draw. Stay tuned.