Move over, Cyd Charisse

I received a phone call last week from Lucia Zimmitti, an editor who spoke at the Texas Trail Writers Roundup this spring. In mid-July, I’d sent her the first five pages of my manuscript. She reported that she’d read them and that they’re ready for query. She said she believes agents who read them will ask to see more.

Music to my ears. I was reluctant to tell her how long I’ve worked and how many revisions it’s taken to get those five pages agent-ready. Lucia said not to worry about time, that some novels are ten years in the making. Actually, it’s the ten years part that worries me, but I know it’s going to take as long as it takes.

After discussing specifics, Lucia asked how much more I have.

A pile of pages. A stack of scenes. Words, words, words, but not in order.

I described where I am in the process and told her how I work. She said not to worry.

When I hung up the phone, I was tempted to dance around the apartment.  But I didn’t. My feeling of ecstasy wasn’t pure. It was an alloy, producing calm rather than chaos.

It’s good when people like what I’ve written. But having a professional say those pages show promise is more than good. It’s validating. It means the time, the effort, the embarrassing, sick-making drafts aren’t wasted.

It means that when people ask what I do, I can drop the self-mocking half-smile, the apologetic, “I’m working on a novel. But of course, EVerybody in Austin is working on a NOvel.” I can look them in the eye and say, “I write.” I can remove the quotation marks from “novel.”

I’m tempted here to insert the usual disclaimer: It’s only five pages. I haven’t completed the manuscript. The five present-perfect are future-imperfect–because, with all the twists and turns of drafting, they will have to be tweaked.

But I won’t apologize. Hearing Lucia’s assessment of the intro to Chapter One changed how I perceive both my writing and myself. I’m no longer a dilettante. I’m a writer. I have goals to meet, a manuscript to finish, and no room for excuses.

Figurative language isn’t my forte, but to clarify, I’ll give it a shot.

It’s like when I was ten years old and my Uncle Donald took me out to a pasture in his beat-up 1950 Chevy pickup and taught me to drive. I started out popping the clutch (“Let it out sloooow.“), grinding the gears (“Put in the CLUTCH!”), killing the engine (“Give it some GAS!”), turning the key, popping the clutch, jolting the passenger, bouncing across old furrows. But after a few lessons I got the hang of it and was driving along the turn row, changing gears without incident.

A couple of months later, my father put me behind the wheel of a ’56 Bel Air, which had fewer gears and no clutch at all, and let me drive home from the farm (“Don’t rush up to the stop sign, eeease up to it.”) In due time, I got my license and soon was cruising down the freeway, feeling like a driver.

After I’d invested time, energy, and angst wrestling with the clutch and grinding the gears, finally holding that license brought not only satisfaction but also a feeling of maturity.

The future won’t be a joyride. There will be (here comes the disclaimer) traffic jams and detours and wrong turns down one-way streets. And worse. Like the time I was on my way to the university and my car slid on a patch of once-in-a-decade Texas ice and landed in the ditch facing the wrong direction, right across from my father’s workplace. (“I told you to go slow.” “I DID. I was just doing 50.”)

When Lucia and I finished speaking, it was as if she’d handed me a license to write. I felt settled. Serene. Competent. Equipped for the task at hand.

Cyd Charisse, move over. I feel a dance coming on.


Lucia Zimmitti is president and founder of Manuscript Rx.

P.S.  I did not try to perfect the first five pages before moving on. I obsess and compulse, but not to that extent.


9 thoughts on “Move over, Cyd Charisse

  1. Kathy,
    This is the best news I’ve heard in a while. You dance girl!! And then, do what you’re meant to do–write and write and write! I think I’ll dance for you too!


  2. YES! (Figurative happy dance, happy dance, happy dance as I do still have that whole ankle-surgery-recovery thing going on.) I could have told you that about those first five pages, but then I am not Lucia Zimmitti.

    Cool photos with this post, by the way!




    1. Literal thank you for that figurative happy dance and your kind words. (Watch out for the ankle.) I’m into persevering big time–and I know that you know what that means.


  3. You have every reason to be totally excited. I’m excited and all I did was read your post! If the editing and re-writing ever get difficult, come back and re-read this post.




    1. Helen, your advice is right on. I’ll make this post required reading every morning, as soon as I boot up the laptop. Thanks for your comment, and for being excited. One of the rewards of writing is being part of a community whose members support one another so generously. [adverb noted]


  4. Kathy! I’m so glad you posted a comment on my blog because now I know you have one–and it is FANTASTIC! You need make no excuses, beautiful woman! You are a fantastic writer-and your blog shows it! I loved this descriptive text:

    “My feeling of ecstasy wasn’t pure. It was an alloy, producing calm rather than chaos.”

    I so know that feeling!

    I subscribed to your blog and so look forward to keeping up with it! Move over Cyd Charisse–Kathy’s on a role!


    1. Mary Ann, I’m glad you found it inspiring. As you know, there’s nothing like an encouraging word to keep us writing. Thanks for visiting and commenting.


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