On the subject of hopes and dreams, my goals as a writer have dictated the course of my life since my early twenties. Decades ago, I turned from a more pragmatic, predictable and lucrative career in public relations to pursue opportunities as an author—first as a freelancer and later as nonfiction book writer and novelist. I have continually sought validation for my creative pursuits amid years of rejection as I panned for fool’s gold.
I blame The New York Times for giving me hope I could one day write a novel. On April 28, 1985, the Times published my essay “A Hometown Boy Returns” about a bittersweet return to my hometown of Harrison, N.Y., years after an abrupt and painful departure. The essay’s publication heralded a forthcoming best-selling book, or so I thought.
During the next decade, I would discover the often sobering realities about such great expectations. Writing a novel like other ambitious quests is about faith and hope, false promises and fool’s gold. Most likely, your rewards will be more modest than you imagined on the journey.
By 1990 I had written one unpublished young adult (YA) novel, The Tough Get Going, while working as a full-time freelancer. Two years later, I set sail for grad school at the University of Oregon to specialize in narrative nonfiction and, hopefully, secure a second career as a journalism professor. In 1995, I dusted off my YA novel and began reworking it into a family saga. My new book, Delamore’s Dreams, which eventually reached 30 chapters and 175,000 words, was about a prodigal son and his estranged father fighting for respect in 1960s metro New York.
Unable to secure a publisher for the book after years of submissions, rejections, rewriting, resubmissions and more rejections, I went the print-on-demand route. In 2005, Delamore’s Dreams was marketed as a trade paperback. It may have lacked the traditional imprint of legitimacy, but it was nevertheless a published first novel! I felt grateful for completing the quest I had begun 20 years earlier after my essay had appeared in The New York Times.
Today I have 44 years of freelancing, hundreds of articles and a dozen books to my credit, plus more in the pipeline. Given my age (69) and largely unknown writer status, I should probably shelve my aspirations for “official” literary recognition by the mainstream publishing community. But I persist.
A while ago an old pal emailed me after reading Delamore’s Dreams. He said his wife “could not put my book down,” and he raved about my novel and the memories it evoked. Such are the tender mercies for this stubborn writer who found fool’s gold long ago.