Well, what can I say? We all know what a peculiar year this has been. It started off fairly conventionally. At the end of 2019, I took a Christmas cruise to Mexico, Honduras, and Belize with my daughter Helenka. In January, I traveled to England and visited family, including cousins I hadn’t seen in a while. We compared notes on our family story, and between us came up with the most likely version of our history. (That’s right, we are now historic…) When my return plane was delayed by six hours, I killed time, so to speak, by visiting Highgate Cemetery, where Karl Marx is buried, among many of the people he wanted to get rid of – aristocrats, Victorian celebrities, and the bourgeoisie. In February, I took part in a staging of the Vagina Monologues, where, for some reason, my very English voice brought the house down. In other words, life carried on as usual.
And then 2020 turned into the Year of the Flowers. During the first week of March, a friend and I drove to Philadelphia for their famous Flower Show. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but I was somewhat shocked to find there was no blue sky above my head. No sky at all, in fact. Well, it was winter, I suppose. But the Chelsea Flower Show has ruined me for any indoor garden event. Luckily, Longwood Gardens, with its enormous greenhouses full of orchids, made up for it.
I came home and immediately left for lunch in Boston, visiting the family—just for the day. And then I drove back to my little cottage in Fairfield and never went out again. Not quite true, of course. Like you, I expect, I stood in line outside the grocery store, and took a walk as often as I could, to save my sanity. I wasn’t too worried. After all, this wasn’t going to last long.
And then it became the Year of Zoom. (Better than the Year of Doom, which was the other alternative.)
When I realized I would be stuck at home, I held the writers’ meetings that I lead on Zoom, and started a new one at the request of our local library. I was more or less obliged to say yes to that, because my second novel is set in a similar library, and I knew I’d need their help in getting the details right.
What of my first novel, you ask? Even if you don’t, I will tell you. I signed with an agent, in the nick of time. She said she would retire after taking me on. I tried not to take this personally, but one wonders… She sent the novel (The Bookshop of New Beginnings) around to various publishers, and one came back with a couple of suggestions. Would I rewrite the whole thing with this and that in mind, and she would take another look at it? Well, yes, I would. So, I joined a daily Zoom meeting designed to keep me at my desk writing. (There would be witnesses if I didn’t.)
I got the rewrite done and have sent it off to another editor, who I hope will only have minor tweaks to make before it goes back to the one who wanted to see it again. I only hope editor number one remembers asking for it. You never know. I long for the days when, like Dorothy Parker or Nancy Mitford, you could walk into a publisher’s office and slap a pile of badly-typed papers on his desk. He would then say: “This is a masterpiece. Leave it with me.” Cut to next scene. It’s a book, selling millions of copies.
Alas, no more. It takes a village these days. So, I wrote a terrible draft of Book 2, (The Library of Lost Causes) while I waited to hear about Book 1. (Still waiting…)
And went back to the Year of the Flowers. To keep myself moderately sane, I started taking weekly trips to various gardens in Connecticut (see photos above). Although a resident here for over thirty years, I haven’t been much of a tourist. New Hampshire used to take up most of my weekends and vacations, so I was amazed to find so many lovely places to visit nearby. When the temperature drops, I may have to switch to museums, if they’re still open. If they aren’t, it will be on with the snowshoes, and out I’ll go. Oh, and I’m swimming twice a week. All that sitting and writing isn’t good for the bottom line. (Bottom, get it? Oh, never mind…)
I hope you have a good Christmas. Roll on 2021!