Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Support

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire

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A Thanksgiving Tradition

At the ripe age of 52 I decided to return to school for my Masters of Fine Arts in Writing. Our daughter was in college, and our son a senior in high school. I could see a window where my motherly responsibilities were declining. I had a chance to give my full attention to my writing craft.

Much to my surprise, I was accepted by my top-choice low-residency program: Vermont College of Fine Arts. Still, I worried. Was I too old to be going back to school? The program assured me they had students in their seventies. My own mother was 49 with an eight-year-old child (me) when she enrolled in college for her bachelor's degree, a journey that carried her all the way to a master's degree. If Mom could do it, so could I.

During my second semester, I pulled out my long-neglected novel, thinking I would pound out a few more chapters. My advisor had other ideas. You have to finish the novel this semester, she said. The idea of writing the whole book in less than six months seemed daunting, but I accepted the challenge.

My hours at the keyboard increased; housework and meals were delegated to other family members. Steadily, I plowed through chapter after chapter, moving ever closer to that elusive finish line. On Thanksgiving Day, while my daughter, son, and husband prepared the entire Thanksgiving dinner, I sat in my office and typed those magical words: The End.

I revised that same novel for my creative thesis during my fourth semester, working through the Thanksgiving weekend. The revisions were finished on Thanksgiving Day while my family, once again, prepared the holiday dinner. It seemed this was becoming a tradition.

After graduating, I began querying agents and collected a large pile of rejections. Some agents loved the writing but hated the main character; others liked the story but didn't like the writing. No one wanted to take the book on. Then one agent asked for detailed revisions. I spent months making the changes, and she finally decided, no, she couldn't sell the book. I was about to shelve my first novel when I discovered a contest by a new press, so I entered.

Although I didn't win first place, the publisher wanted to publish the book--if I revised it again. For the next year-and-a-half, we worked through a historical revision and two structural/content revisions, expanding an 89,000-word novel into 105,000 words. The final words of the final revision were typed on--you guessed it--Thanksgiving Day while my family prepared the holiday dinner. That novel, Blood of a Stone, is being released by Tuscany Press in October 2014, first as an eBook and in December as a paperback. I owe many people for their help with the book, but in the acknowledgements, there is one special thank you: Larry, Genevieve, and Greg, I promise you will never have to cook Thanksgiving Day dinner for me again.

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Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.  


Jeanne Lyet Gassman  lives in Arizona where the desert landscape inspires much of her fiction. She holds an MFA in Writ­ing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has received fellow­ships from Ragdale and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Her work has appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Red Savina Review, The Museum of Americana, Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters, Switchback, Literary Mama, and Barrelhouse, among many others. Her debut novel, Blood of a Stone (Tuscany Press), was published March 2015 and is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and selected bookstores. Find Jeanne online at: www.jeannelyetgassman.com


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