Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who Did You Miss?

by Elizabeth

I thought I'd read everything by Bebe Moore Campbell, beginning with Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, which I think I first read about ten years ago. I think my favorite is Brothers and Sisters, which I've read at least twice, and which I often think about it when I'm in the shower, actually. Don't ask. Sadly, Campbell passed away much too young in 2006, and hearing the news, I was sad there would be no  more works from her.

But at the library a couple weeks ago, I discovered a book of hers I'd not read, 72 Hour Hold. Of course I picked it up, and it did not disappoint. As with most of her other novels, the protagonist was a black woman (as was Campbell), and as with the others, the character lived in a world peopled with blacks, whites, Hispanics--in short, in our America. One reason I was a fan of Campbell was that she made her characters very real, and their complexity mirrored the world in which I live (or in the case of her first book, a world that once was and is thankfully no more). Reading about this woman struggling to help her daughter, it crossed my mind that Campbell would really enjoy Julie Kibler's Calling Me Home, and I hoped she would read it.

But she can't.

That got me thinking: I've been chasing publication for over half a decade, have queried two novels with positive reactions but no sales, and those are now tucked under the bed with a couple other half-written manuscripts even as I toil at my latest. Hopefully this one will be the one to fly. And thinking about Campbell and Kibler, it made me think: if it does, who won't get to read it that I wish would?

I'd like to think Jane Austen would be amused and appreciative of my main character, but since she was dead over 150 years before I was a glint, that was never an option. But earlier in my questing, there was still a chance that Maeve Binchy would be a reader, even (gasp) a fan. Since we lost her last year, that's no longer possible. I imagine she's a lost potential reader Joan laments as well.

I'm still not done with the first draft of this latest story, and once I am, there will be a period of critiquing and rewriting and then of course querying--if everything went gorgeously, it'd still be a long shot for this book to meet 2014. So, without being maudlin, it has been crossing my mind that there are some writers I admire, writers I would love to pay back with my own words, who might never read a word I wrote. Not to mention the writers who are already gone, my chance lost already.

If there was someone you could summon from the past, recent or distant, to read your work, I wonder who it would be?


  1. You know I love this idea! And yes, Maeve Binchy for sure. That's a big question - there are some living authors I hope might one day read my work: Adriana Trigiani and Kate Morton, Tracy Chevalier and Rebecca Stott! Yes, I dream wild!

  2. I would choose Bebe Moore Campbell, too--note Dorrie's daughter's name in Calling Me Home! :) She was named after both Campbell and a little girl I know. I read 72-Hour Hold in the midst of writing Calling Me Home, and so wished I could see Campbell talk about the book and ask her to sign a copy for me. Your Blues Ain't Like Mine is one of my all-time favorites.

    Otherwise, hmm, I'll have to think about that a little more!


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