The publishing saga continues...
After I wrote my thesis (2nd novel) at Brooklyn College, I was employed at Rutgers teaching creative writing. I loved that job, commuted to New Brunswick and also to the Zen Buddhist Monastery where I had started living part-time. Okay, i had a mad crush on the main monk but it was also something I needed. I had not been able to stop grieving for my sister and all the rest of it. I was sober but life still felt like a burden.
I went for a healing weekend to the monastery with my angry Jewish boyfriend where we had sex in a hot tub which was a very bad thing but I also found myself drawn towards the practice despite the scary Japanese Roshi and all the crazy bowing and kneeling and chanting and sitting. I found peace there but I didn't write. I baked bread, I sat at the foot of my teacher while he played the Zen Flute, I fended off the advances of the prisoner of Zen, a druggie who was sent to the monastery instead of jail. I was happy, I was blank, my posture was great.
Something I realized about attachments and writing was why I left. I could see that my life as a serious Zen student might be incredibly rewarding but I didn't see how I'd manage to write. Conflict is an essential part of my writing practice and conflict was not encouraged in the Zendo. I also felt removed from the world and when I returned to New York while I could see the pain of those around me I felt distant and removed, poor qualities for a writer. I left the Monastery in a wild thunderstorm, driving down the mountain while lightning crashed.
Back in New York I taught a class at the College of New Rochelle in the South Bronx, ten older black women and one young man. They were wonderful students and we had a very good time together discussing essays and writing. The College was in a blighted area of New York. Walking down the streets I felt out of place despite work I had done in Bedford Stuyvesant when I was teaching in Brooklyn.
One afternoon I walked down the main street and heard from the radio that the Rodney King trial had ended with acquitting the white policemen that beat him nearly to death. As I continued to walk, there was a palpable sense of anger in the air. I heard people mutter things as I walked by and then this young African-American man started to follow me muttering "White bitch" under his breath. Just before I was about to ask for help, I felt the arm of someone in mine and looked to see one of my oldest students next to me. She had on an incredible hat.
"Come on, Molly," she said. "We'll do this together." She turned around and spoke to the young man as only a black grandmother could, chastising yet also acknowledging his fury.
"You come here for us," she said to me. "I'm not going to let you be insulted by ignorance."
I got married, pregnant, left New York for London, London for Dallas, Dallas for Chicago. I was called a "trailing spouse" on my husband's visa. Before the engagement, I had gone to the MLA and was flown down to Tallahassee to interview and then I was offered a job as an assistant professor in creative writing. I said no because...I was getting married, pregnant and he made more money. He didn't think commuting was practical and he'd been offered the middle column of the Wall Street Journal (front page). At the time I knew I was saying no to something I would never be offered again.
London was great. I rushed out 7 months pregnant and got a job teaching creative writing at a place called the CITY LIT that had serious students and students who were collecting the dole (unemployment) and could take the class for free. one man only wanted to write about "squirrels". At first I thought he said "girls" which seemed fine but later I realized it was in fact the other thing and that was a little weird. I also met a female movie producer who read my books and hired me to write a treatment and then a first draft for a film she was co-producing with an Irish producer who was responsible for that Indie hit last year called ONCE. I went to our first meeting about a week after Luke was born and his father brought him to the meeting snuggled up in the wraparound baby carrier we used.
"Oh my god," they said, "she's so hormonal."
"Maura Rua" was all about motherhood, Ireland's revolution, betrayal & war. It was about the mother's that gave birth to the soldiers that died. I wrote in a frenzy and they loved it. I wrote massive battle scenes and love scenes and scenes between Maura and her son that made my producers cry. We went to this movie people dinner club called GROUCHO'S and everyone around us was famous. I was told I was going to get rich and famous and asked how I felt.
I felt...dubious. My previous art life had taught me a number of things, mainly that terrible phrase about chicken counting. A few weeks into March, my baby's father asked me if I'd be willing to move to Dallas, Texas so he could become a bureau chief.
"Will I like it there?" I asked him, barely able to take my eyes off the baby.
"No," he said. "You'll hate it. People spend their time watching football, the women are all blond, there's no ocean and people drive everywhere."
"Is it what you want?"
Let me explain. In my life I had never sacrificed anything for a man. I thought this was a good chance to demonstrate my ability to be a wonderful wife, mother and a great writer. The mother part survived Dallas. The rest was buried in loneliness, anger and loss of identity.