My first manuscript, currently resting (i.e. gathering dust in a drawer somewhere) tells the story of young and adventurous Maggie and her friends Ben and Tom during World War II. They experience the war from three different perspectives. Maggie wants to give her brother’s death at Pearl Harbor meaning and becomes a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot. Ben, as a Nisei – first generation Japanese American – endures internment with his parents in Wyoming. Tom leaves California for England as the Captain of a B-17.
In other words, pretty far removed from my life in 21st century America.
When We Come Home was a blast to write. I loved doing the research. I learned more about WWII and airplanes than I ever thought I could. I visited museums in Southern California, interviewed the real Maggie, traveled to Washington, DC and even overcame my fear of flying for a twenty-minute spin in an open cockpit Stearman.
But, looking back, I know I didn’t dig deep enough. When I read the manuscript now, I can see that I didn’t understand Maggie, Ben and Tom’s motivation for the life choices they made. I was intent on writing fast, revising fast, finding an agent and getting the manuscript published. Fast.
Maggie, Ben and Tom deserve more.
And so, When We Come Home will stay in the drawer until Maggie, Ben and Tom are ready to come out and tell me what really happened.
The manuscript I’m working on now hits closer to home. The women in the story are women I know because they are aspects of me. And as I take the time to let them tell me their story, I find the process peeling back layers of my life. And I have to ask myself, is it writing? Or is it therapy?
From its inception, as a quick one-paragraph assignment in Terry Galanoy’s writing class, I wrote When We Come Home in about two years.
It has taken me six-months to write the opening chapter of Green Acres.
History drove the story arc of When We Come Home. While Green Acres takes place during a six-week period in the summer of 1969, history cannot guide me this time. I’m relying on Wanda, Cora and Rose. And myself. Because this time, I’m asking questions that I’m not convinced I want to know the answers to.