Diversity

Diversity is usually focused on race but I am thinking about how it helps me as an artist. Right now I have a number of things, okay, call them balls, in the air. I was just asked to write a monthly column for The Neworld Review (www.neworldreview.com/) called The Writer's World. I am waiting to hear from two people (producer/director) who are interested in organizing a reading for my play "Clay" in Chicago. I am 150 pages into writing my memoir. I am getting ready to start a PHD program at UIC and I'm also revising and changing my web presence with the help of a wonderful designer at a company called Indiemade. In mid-September I will be at an amazing artist's retreat called Djerassi in California for a month.

Why is it better to have a myriad of opportunities instead of focusing on one thing? I think the business of writing is really about recovering from rejection. While my track record of three published novels, a number of near misses for huge awards from folks like Disney, Sundance etc may look good on paper, in truth they cover up a massive number of thumbs down. Several years ago I wrote a piece called "How to Have a Good Divorce" which was accepted by the NYT TRUE ROMANCE column but then was cancelled because my ex-husband, whom I happily told, demanded it be killed. A few days ago my agent's assistant told me they rejected my newest effort. I think I have at least 5 novels that no one wanted to publish and at least 10 short stories. I have five or six dead screenplays and have applied to several other writing retreats and been turned down. Rejection is a sign I am doing my job.

So, why diversify? It's essential to feel I am moving forward. It's less about success then consistent growth. I felt that way about my high school teaching which is why I had to leave my job despite all sorts of potential penalties vis a vis retirement and a loss of a safety net. I am always bouncing out of the safety net. Back in the 80s I had an extremely well paid position with New Jersey Bell while so many college graduates like myself were gainfully unemployed, English & History majors slammed by the Reagan eighties. I received a raise every six months, incredible benefits and huge amounts of security and I quit as soon as my evaluation was positive. I was unhappy of course but I was also bored. Eventually I ended up back in New York, worked in publishing, got hired, promoted, fired, wrote my first novel, got an MFA...

None of the decisions I've made have been based on any sort of coherent analysis or examination of a spreadsheet. I fear I have the same method of approach to my work life as I do when I am confronted by an unknown body of water, hold my nose, close my eyes and jump. Yes, I usually check to make sure there are no lurking sharks, however I did once jump into body of water in Eluthra that contained a hammerhead. I have swum in a freezing Loch in Scotland, on Christmas Eve in the Irish Sea, in a lake in Abiqiui, New Mexico, in a cove in Carmel, Ca with Sea Otters, In Maine and Cape Cod, in Greece and Italy, France and Spain, Lake Michigan and more places then I can recall. Seriously, no regrets. Yes, there have been jelly fish, the aforementioned shark, teeth chattering brain freeze, unpleasant murk but mostly there has been excitement, happiness, freedom, a sense of accomplishment and awe.

My father used to call me "the bolter" after some slutty character in a Maria Edgeworth novel. But I don't mind that name. I think I have made a number of wise choices and a few stupid ones. But I am constantly awake and rarely afraid. Swimming feels natural to me although I am a land creature and while I understand and accept the need to make a living, pay the mortgage, help send my son to college, fund our retirement, I am grateful for the fact I am willing to fail at something since I try and make sure there is always another bright and shining possibility just at the end of my fingertips.

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