Done Dabbling

26 Jul

writing studyA few years back, someone asked me if I thought I’d ever write a novel some day. My first reaction was to laugh. At that time, I had just recently delved back into writing after a twenty-five year hiatus of not writing a single word (actually, hiatus sounds like I was once a prolific writer—I wasn’t—the best word to describe my attempts at writing in college would be that I “dabbled.”)  Sure, writing short essays and a blog post now and then was feasible—but a novel? I couldn’t even fathom writing something that extensive.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my childhood dream was always to become a writer—I thought about it incessantly for years. I loved books so much—the smell of them; the texture of the paper between my fingertips; the way the words jumped out at me from the page; how I could easily lose myself in a story and experience someone’s life other than my own even if it was just for a short time. The library was my home away from home.

Being somewhat of an introvert, the solitary life of a writer has always appealed to me. As a young girl I created this elaborate fantasy in which I envisioned myself writing my literary masterpiece while tucked away in a cozy study with soft lighting and wall to wall bookshelves. While sitting quiet and alone at an antique desk, I would sip hot tea with honey while a blazing fire crackled in the fireplace. When I needed inspiration, I would glance up and look out through the French Doors onto my picturesque English garden where my flowers somehow managed to bloom year round. Oh—I almost forgot—in my fantasy there was always a gentle rain falling outside.english garden

That perfect fantasy never really got off the ground—with a husband, four kids, four dogs and my mother, I’m never alone. I don’t have French Doors, I live in Southern California where it rarely rains and it’s usually too hot outside to light a fire in the fireplace. I prefer Starbucks coffee to hot tea and rarely go to the library anymore because I always forget to return the books and before I know it I’ve racked up over fifty dollars worth of late fees. I read most of my books on my Kindle and I don’t have an antique desk.  I do my best writing while sitting on the couch.

But get this: I’m thirty-three chapters and almost 70,000 words into my first novel. BAM!  That’s right—I am fifty two years old and for the first time in my life I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing—I am writing a novel.

Now, who knows? My novel may very well turn out to be trite, sentimental and cliché, but then again, it might turn out to be a really great read with a real plot and interesting and lovable characters. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m carving out a little time every day in my busy schedule to sit down on my couch and get a paragraph or two written down, which more often than not gets deleted the following day (I mean, who in their right mind would write such crap?) No matter—one good sentence at a time and somehow the job gets done. And I’m having the time of my life.

Who needs fire, tea and rain to write a book? Not me.

This girl is done dabbling.


If  you’re interested, here’s the description of my novel, Lost in Oaxaca:

Once a promising young concert pianist, Camille Childs retreated to her mother’s Santa Barbara estate after an injury to her hand destroyed her hopes for a musical career. She now leads a solitary life teaching piano, and she has a star student: Graciela, the daughter of her mother’s Mexican housekeeper. Camille has been grooming the young Graciela for the career that she herself lost out on, and now Graciela, newly turned eighteen, has just won the grand prize in a piano competition, which means she gets to perform with the LA Philharmonic. Camille is ecstatic; if she can’t play herself, at least as Graciela’s teacher, she will finally get the recognition she deserves.

But there are only two weeks left before the concert, and Graciela has disappeared—gone back to her family’s village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Desperate to bring Graciela back in time for the concert, Camille goes after her, but on the way there, a bus accident leaves her without any of her possessions. Alone and unable to speak the language, Camille is befriended by Alejandro, a Zapotec man who lives in LA but is from the same village as Graciela. Despite a contentious first meeting, Alejandro helps Camille navigate the rugged terrain and unfamiliar culture of Oaxaca, allowing her the opportunity to view the world in a different light—and perhaps find love in the process.


Villa Hidalgo Yalalag, Oaxaca. This is where much of the novel takes place.

Villa Hidalgo Yalalag, Oaxaca. This is where much of the novel takes place.

31 Responses to “Done Dabbling”

  1. Britton Swingler July 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    I already know I will love your novel. You write beautifully and the storyline is fascinating. I CANNOT WAIT until I have a signed copy in my hand. And gosh, except for the fact that I am half flaming extrovert and half recluse, our writing dream sounds identical. Love you girl.

  2. Allegro non tanto July 26, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Love you back! I can’t believe I’m actually making this happen. Whether or not it gets published, I’m having such a good time writing. I’m so thankful for all of your continued love and support (and that of our wonderful writers group!) We are so lucky to have each other.

  3. Becky Green Aaronson July 26, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    You go girl! Love the synopsis and can’t wait to read the book. Way to keep at it!!

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 8:25 am #

      Thanks, Becky. I’m planning to stick with it. You can be one of my pre-readers. I’d love your feedback.

  4. Betty Pierskalla July 26, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    Interesting how fiction draws upon our own life! Good going, Jessie. i await the hardcover copy. betty

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 8:26 am #

      I await it too! Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long….

  5. Mariko Bdraswell July 27, 2014 at 2:21 am #

    I can’t wait to read it!! So, so happy for you, and you are an inspiration for me!! xo

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      You’ll be the first to receive a copy, Mariko! Hope you guys are settling in all right. Miss you!

  6. Becki Norton July 27, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    Hey, Jess,
    Glad you’re going for it! Sounds like a heroine’s journey and that you’re wisely drawing on your rich personal experience. It reminds me of my other high school friend that shares your first name who’s also a writer: Jessica Anya Blau. Have you read her: “The Summer of Naked Swim Parties?” Some parts are very funny — and it incorporates many recognizable scenes from those hazy 70s high school days. I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it!
    I second the comments above that I have dibs on a signed copy and can’t wait to read your book! xx

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 8:28 am #

      Jessica and I have known each other since elementary school and I’ve read all of her novels! I loved “The Summer of Naked Swim Parties” and have a wonderful time trying to figure out who was who. Thanks for all the encouraging words, Becki.

  7. Lisa July 27, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    I have been following your blog for a couple of years now. I don’t remember how I originally discovered it, but I am subscribed via email and I read most of the entries cover to cover (so to speak). I’m a 40-year-old poet and first-time mom, experiencing a ton of newness in the last couple of years.

    I just want to salute you and applaud you and I want to know how it’s going. Keep us posted, please! What amazing work.

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 8:32 am #

      You have no idea how much your words mean to me, Lisa! Thank you for following my blog and even better, reading my posts. Best of luck to you with motherhood and poetry (two things that go hand in hand, I would say.) I’d love to read your work sometime. Do you have a blog site? I will keep you posted on my success as well as my failures (another two things that go hand in hand!)

  8. Linda Rosen July 27, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    The synopsis drew me in and I’m waiting to hold the book in my hands. We share the same dream with the fireplace, bookshelves and antique desk though I look out on the beach, like the house in the movie Beaches. So what if you’re on your couch instead and I”m at a desk in what used to be my son’s room, now my grandson’s (as he calls it). We write – and thankfully enjoy the process. If you’re looking for more eyes on your ms, send me some pages. I’m happy to read and critique, if you want. If you’d like to see my ms, which is now sitting on my laptop resting after 6 years of work with MANY rewrites because I know it needs more and I JUST CAN”T LOOK AT IT NOW, go to my website. And please, tell me, where is that fabulous room in the photo at the top?

    I love settings in faraway places that I’ve never been to so your novel is even more inviting for that. Whatever I’ve read of yours has been beautiful, I’m sure you’ll bring this local alive with color and aroma. Have fun writing.

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

      Thank you so much for your lovely words, Linda. As you know, this whole process has been eye opening, especially since I’ve never done it before. Lots to learn, that’s for sure. I may take you up on your offer when I get closer to finishing. And I stole that photo off the internet and now I can’t remember who it belongs to–it’s some famous writer’s studio. Someday maybe I’ll get off the couch and have a room like that in which to work!

  9. Sheila July 27, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    So proud of you, Jessie!!! 😘

    Sent from my iPhone

  10. injaynesworld July 27, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    You are such a lovely writer, Jessica, and your novel sounds amazing. But most of all, you’re a wonderful, loving person and it comes through in every word. I’m thrilled and excited for you. Big hugs!

  11. Blanca Gorman July 27, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Can wait to read it ! You bring back memories from home! Your words transported me to Oaxaca!!
    I am so proud of you!

    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

      I really hope you like it, Blanca. Much of the story takes place in Yalalag which I think is so rich with culture! I’ll keep you posted.

  12. green surf grass July 27, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    I’ve been wanting to know what your novel is about since you first mentioned it! just sign me up to buy an advance copy, ok? 🙂


    • Allegro non tanto July 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      It might be a little while longer. Got to get the darn thing finished first!

  13. Ann Aguilera July 28, 2014 at 2:29 am #

    I am intrigued … I want to read more.

  14. Rossandra July 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    I’m thrilled for you, Jess, what an accomplishment! I can’t wait to read your book. If I can help in any way, please let me know.

    • Allegro non tanto July 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      I’m sure that when I’m done I’ll be pestering you on what to do to get it published! So glad you’ve been through it already.

  15. debatterman July 29, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    I thought the premise was wonderful when you first told me about it . . . So thrilled that you’re seeing that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Kind of creeps up on you, doesn’t it?– what with all that goes into being a fully realized woman who knows what really matters in the day-to-day of living. Maybe betwixt and between fantasy (or our sense of it) and reality is the place we get to mine the landscape of rich fiction.

  16. Allegro non tanto July 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    You’re right, Deborah. I’ve always believed the best fiction comes from real truth.

  17. Suzanne August 7, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Amazing blog share, congratulations, keep on the dream!

  18. Sabrina Enyeart September 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Love your writing, Jessie, I can’t wait read your novel!

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