Even though Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is my first novel, it’s the second publication. It took fourteen years from the book’s original debut to understand who I am as a writer. It took the same time to strengthen my self-esteem and find the courage to release it to the world with confidence and joy (and a few nerves…).
It took a lifetime to proclaim to the universe, “I am a writer.”
I’ve wanted to write since I was fifteen – I even started a fanzine on my favorite band, The Who, in my teens because I didn’t know what to do with my passion. The fanzine got me accepted into graduate school in London for creative writing. The universe was laying out a path for me, but I wasn’t able to listen or follow.
After getting my degree, I moved to New York City. I don’t believe one should work in a profession where they want to pursue their creativity, so I decided to work in music while I wrote books. Luckily, I landed a dream job in a great record company within days of arriving in the Big Apple.
A layoff and a couple years later, I ended up at a major music label with an insane cast of characters around me. And in the late 1990s, after several attempts, I got serious about writing – Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is what resulted. (It was originally called Rock Gods of Acht.) It took five and a half years to write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, and generally pull my hair out until I was satisfied with the manuscript.
The next step was finding an agent and publisher. For large publishing companies, an agent is mandatory; for smaller presses, it’s possible to work with them on your own. I sent out dozens and dozens of queries – and got rejection after rejection. One sent a form letter with boxes to tick off. They checked the box that told me to find another career. Talk about being devastated.
After thirty or so rejections, I finally met with an agent. She told me I’d have to rewrite a large part of the novel if I wanted to work with her. The control she would have had over my creativity did not sit well with me, so I never pursued working with her.
The book sat for a few years, and in 2008, I self-published the novel. At that time, self-publishing was generally frowned upon, but I wanted to prove to myself that I had written a book. And what better way than by owning a physical copy.
I got a good review from Kirkus Reviews (the gold standard of book reviews), but I needed more to convince myself I was a writer worth writing. I had no idea how to market or promote the book, so I released it, got the one Kirkus review, and let it fall into the universal black hole of unloved and unread books.
Fast forward fourteen years. I’d made several attempts at writing novels during those years. Still, nothing grabbed me hard enough to turn into a finished manuscript. I also got caught up in my life in New York City. It’s a great place to live when you’re young, but it’s also very distracting and can steal your dreams if you’re not careful.
In 2020, covid hit. Living in New York City was horrific at the beginning of the pandemic, but it gave me a lot of time to sit. And think. It was then I started walking on my path back to myself.
At the end of 2020, after thirty years in NYC, I moved alone to New Mexico. I tried to keep my nonprofit afloat, open a center in Santa Fe for food, art, culture, and calm, and get funding to continue organizing events as I’d done with TEDxManhattan and other Change Food gatherings.
But the Delta and Omicron variants helped me see that my nonprofit career had run its course. Covid shut everything down, and I couldn’t find funding or consulting work. And I’d lost my passion for the work I’d been doing.
The universe was nudging me once again.
So, at the beginning of 2022, I shut down my nonprofit and left the work I’d been doing for nearly twenty-five years. After a few months of not getting consulting gigs and trying different types of writing, like journalism, magazine articles, and essays, I made a decision. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it had to be done.
I stood up, looked at myself in the mirror, and proclaimed to the universe, “I am a writer”.
Just like that, I became a full-time fiction writer.
A few months later, a friend from my early NYC days reconnected to tell me she’d found a copy of Rock Gods of Acht. She shared that when she finished the book, she quit her job in telecom law. After nearly ten years of doing what she didn’t want, she was so inspired by the story that she left her job to pursue her creativity and passion.
She also explained that I had the book’s meaning all wrong. Rock Gods & Messy Monsters is set in a record company, but it’s not really about the music industry. The novel is a cautionary tale that reminds us that our dreams can be illusions – and it’s about finding the courage to do something about it.
I couldn’t ask for a bigger compliment, so after a lot of encouragement from her, I decided to republish the book.
The result is an updated version of my original book – now called Rock Gods & Messy Monsters. It was released last month, and I’ve just begun the exciting adventure of indie book marketing. It’s confusing; it’s frustrating; it’s sometimes infuriating. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am a writer. I am finally me.
In two weeks, I’ll be back with part two of this series “On Being a Writer” to share what it’s like pursuing fiction full time. (Next week is the Next Draft monthly ‘zine.)