You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take.
This weekend my daughter, Cristina, and her boyfriend, Jay, drove over from Kansas City and spent a few nights. They'd come in town for a friend's wedding. Cristina also is a writer and we've agreed to co-write a book someday.
While she was here I asked Cristina to read something I'd written. Since she didn't audibly gasp while reading, I'm taking that as a green light.
It was my book jacket copy.
Strange, right, since I haven't actually written the book yet.
This is preparation/pre-work for the 60-hour writing course sprint I'm doing at the end of this week. After procrastinating for three days, this weekend I drafted it. By reading the book jacket copy from 15 other books and studying the pre-work prompt, the jacket copy structure should look something like this: set the stage, give context, introduce characters/what goes wrong, then end with the big takeaway.
That's the structure; yet, I also want the book to reflect my mission statement (the same one I use when doing the storytelling in this blog): I share stories of perseverance through challenges, and how this connects us to what matters and each other. Why? Because in everything I do I believe in pushing against the edges of limitation. In everything I do I believe in finding connection.
I am so hoping the book will reflect this. I want to write a story I would want to read.
Here's my shot at a book jacket draft:
Johanna is a young woman trapped by the social rules of her upper-class upbringing in Amsterdam in the late 19th century. The youngest daughter in a family of seven she’s allowed to taste a little freedom by studying languages and living in London, until she is summoned home to concentrate on becoming “marriageable.” While her father is more lenient, her mother is practical: there is no better alternative for women than a good marriage match. So, when Johanna’s brother introduces her to Theo, an aspiring art dealer, she rejects him, angry that he fits the definition of what her parents ordered. Miserable and struggling with her new restrictions, Johanna seizes the opportunity to go to Paris when a sister needs help with her new baby.
Turn-of-the-century Paris is dazzling. Magnificent gardens, broad avenues, and packed crowds are vivid contrasts to Amsterdam’s backwater provincialism. Johanna is intoxicated by the energy of exotic discoveries. She explores Paris and stumbles into its less glittery reality. She befriends a young millinery worker, Patrice, and learns about an underworld of long hours, next to nothing pay and prostitution. It’s during these explorations that Theo reappears, declares his love for Johanna again, and this time she accepts his proposal. Life is joyous; she is in love. They marry and soon have a baby on the way.
Theo is passionate about advancing new ideas in art. While a few well-known artists are fawned over at lavish social events, an outlier community of artists is challenging the Impressionist status quo, experimenting with new ideas. Theo fervently believes in the unrecognized talent of his troubled brother, Vincent, whose artwork is startling and emotional. He struggles between supporting Vincent and withstanding the criticism of established artists. When Vincent dies unexpectedly, Theo is distraught and languishes. Mistaking Theo’s poor condition as grief and remorse, Johanna realizes too late that Theo is ill and he dies. Widowed, with a young child and unwelcomed by the artist community, Johanna must determine whether to return to the safety of her Dutch homeland or make her way in a suddenly inhospitable city...and what to do with some 800 paintings she’s inherited from outlier Vincent?
With 19th century Paris as a resplendent backdrop, through drama and adventure, this novel explores the obstacles Johanna Van Gogh overcame to bring Vincent’s works to the world. It celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women, especially when life plays out differently than expected.
Just a start...no doubt it will evolve as the book unfolds.
How I'm Writing the Book
Research: The Van Gogh Museum has a new exhibit on Dutch painters in Paris so I was able to read about the artists Van Gogh looked up to as well as his contemporaries, a little about life in Amsterdam and the dazzle of 19th century Paris from their website.
Books I’m Reading: I finished The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. In addition to winning the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence, The Underground Railroad was just honored with the 2017 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Fiction Award. It's the third book in a row that's multi-layered and jumps to different character's perspectives chapter by chapter, so I've tucked that idea into the back of my mind for my own writing. The book is so well-done; if only the cruelty of slavery was fiction. Next up, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, which my aunt gave me. She and my mom came by for a visit about a month ago when we talked about it. After they left, I realized that somehow I never finished it! I'm starting back from the beginning.
Plot Party Update: Last month I wrote about doing a Plot Party on October 10. This is an experimental way to research and find out what readers of historical fiction look for and love. I had to cancel it because of going to Maui unexpectedly. Hey... I should have done it beach side!
On a final note, since I started out with a sports quote so I'll end with another.
You are the handicap you must face.
You are the one who must choose your place.
-James Lane Allen
Thank you for joining with me on this journey!