• Shawn Keller Cooper

Finding My Voice

What does it take to write a novel these days? It’s not enough for me to chase after the stories running through my brain. I must wrestle with the characters pushing and shoving to the forefront of my consciousness. Look at me, they shout. Look at me. It’s my turn. They are persistent, sometimes irritating, skipping and stomping, waging war or making love, engaging in any manner of mischief, unrelenting in their pursuit of my attention. I rise from my bed in the cold dark hours past midnight before the dawn, take up my pen and paper and try to capture them before they run away. When they do flee, the quiet solitude they leave behind is worse.

This scenario plays out among those of us who dare to call ourselves writers. We endeavor to entertain, enlighten and encourage. Each one of us has a reason to take on this obsession and wallow in tortured bliss. Tortured because the words tumbling from my interior can’t be abandoned, a perpetual quest much like charging at windmills and pushing boulders up mountains. Bliss because herding these words and harnessing them into sentences arouses an ecstasy that only a finished work can bring. I hold it in my hands stretching my laptop skyward presenting it like a young lion king to the savanna. This work is my offering. I give you my spirit, soul and hope. The rapture is intoxicating and I am drunk on my own talent, masterful, powerful and clever. I am invincible. I can change the world with my mind. And it is magnificent, otherworldly magnificent, until the next rejection lands.

But rejections won’t stop me, they just challenge me to work harder. Weeks before I turned fifty last summer I finally finished one, one novel that is. It required all the effort I could muster and an unbreakable promise I made myself two decades ago that I would one day write books. I had plenty of material. There are plots, sub-plots, major and minor characters all sharing space in my cerebellum, occasionally vacationing in my cerebrum for a change of scenery. I have started three novels and for a time wrote periodically on all three in between soccer practice, art lessons, carpool and doctor appointments, like many stay-at-home moms or rather running-the-family-corporation moms which is a more accurate distinction.

Then both children were in college and I crossed into the bewitching hour, the space where time slows and hovers over the empty nest. I had to answer that question keeping me up nights. Could I do it? Did I have the discipline? Did I have any talent? I dabbled at writing for years, producing thirty thousand words of one novel and twenty thousand of another and really had nothing to show for my efforts or to justify carrying a notebook everywhere I went only to hold it quietly in my lap as if those characters were going to stroll from my subconscious and set about arranging the words to tell their story.

So I committed. I owed myself nothing less than the attention I had given to others over the decades. Years to write thirty thousand words and two months to write the last 60,000, I had completed my first novel, at least the birthing process. Weaning and rearing are next. It is with great satisfaction I announce that DRAWING DOWN THE MOON, Book One in The James Island Trilogy will be released early this spring. #shawnkellercooper #TurningThePage #secondcareer #emptynest

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