In addition to my first reader, a writer named Susan in Maine, I’m letting some of my family members read the manuscript of my first book. I asked Richard if he wanted to read it. He did. And he started in the car on the drive down to the Outer Banks vacation.
When we arrive in Duck, North Carolina we decide we have to have the legendary crab cakes from Blue Point for lunch. As soon we step out of the car, Richard tells me how powerful the book is. He says he can’t put it down but he wants to try and pace himself because he wants to savor the experience. At lunch he tells me the story is inspiring him.
I had no idea until that moment how much it meant to me that he thought the book was good. “Mom, I think this is going to be big. It’s such an important message.”
He loved how I wove in Charles’ lyrics and how they helped him see his brother’s disease process. He was also reminded they were once very close. In the last year, Richard, for his own survival had to distance himself from Charles. He felt helpless and did not fully understand his brother’s behavior. Phone calls were frustrating and Charles liked to talk a lot about drugs. Richard did not.
It inspired a lot of conversation about Charles’ struggles. And ours as a family. Struggles he was not aware of. He got it and the conversation it inspired was worth every typewritten word of effort, every tear and painful moment of writing it. As a screenwriter, he felt the story and loved the flow.
That’s where I feel I nailed it.
I have work to do on some parts where I need to tell a story and fill in some blanks. And I had a lot of confusion on a couple of chapters regarding which person I was writing in. I already knew that and Susan has been instrumental in helping me on that point. But the ending and the flow and choosing the right song were things on which I was laser focused. And that’s the feedback I got. I had felt good about that part.
I also found out things I didn’t know.
For example, Charles had called Richard and told him about voices he was hearing. I had thought maybe he had suffered from psychosis as I was seeing some evidence of it in his writing although it was subtle. How frightening that must have been for my youngest son. I don’t know if these episodes were triggered by drug use, mental illness or both.
Richard wanted to move to Los Angeles after college graduation from film school. But given his brother killed himself two weeks after that momentous occasion, he stayed in Winston Salem for two years in the house he had been renting while in college– too stunned by his family’s tragedy to make any other move.
He was reflecting on that and told me that although losing Charles was devastating, Charles’ death forced him to stay and learn to live on his own in a small town before throwing himself into the expensive and competitive environment known as Los Angeles. He felt it was a gift.
He is now grateful he had time to get his feet under him, some editing and business experience, so he would be able to make money doing what he loved–film editing, a passion since eighth grade.
He told me many of his friends who moved there right away after graduation were still struggling both emotionally and financially, many of whom had not gotten any work in film. As guilty as I once felt for not having paid as much attention to Richard his high school senior year and throughout his years in college due to what was happening with Charles, I saw he learned to stand on his own two feet and make the trip out there.
Richard is in a good place.
The seed has been planted and I’ll leave that at that.
I’ll then be doing some editing based on her feedback before the next reader. And I’ll be looking for an agent at the same time.
Thanks for being there in this process. Encouraging me, sending contacts and acting as cheerleaders. It’s been emotionally challenging to write this book and I have literally poured my heart and soul into it.