Fenimores are writers. We are inventors, artists, designers, and dreamers. And we are bipolar. Not all of us, of course, but certainly a disproportionate swathe of us caught those genes. Like all creators, we are compelled. We can do nothing about it. Like all writers, there is an itch in our fingers that drives prose from our heads to the page. I spent my summers as a little girl tinkering with my father in the garage, either working on his bike or in my teen years working gold and silver making lost-cast jewelry. He actually invented a way to make toupees so that the hairline disappeared. Not his most practical project, in my opinion. He even invented vice-grips. When he wasn’t forging jet engine, he was brooding, and trimming lyric, or fashioning literary genius. When my father passed and my sister and I sifted through our family’s treasures, we discovered a satchel filled with his poetry and patents. Why I’m not a trust-fund baby, I have no idea.
It was the natural thing then for me to scribe the details of my near-death experience when I survived a suicide attempt in 1991. That was quite a how-do-you-do to the world of publishing. Instead of going on my book tour, I hid out, took my kids to soccer and washed dishes–until I got my first piece of fan mail. What I learned in short order is that we’re all just doing life. My father hid out in the garage with his demons, dumped their ramblings into yellow notepads. Some of us just dress up our trials, paint on our masks with better precision than others. I also learned to view my life and my experience of life in third-person omniscient. “This too shall pass” became more than a trite remedy, but rather a powerful place to stand in midst of depressive episodes. My written words could then be carried on the current of those hard times. It wasn’t until I was a successful author that I stopped resisting and succumbed to the call to write.
Thus began my introduction to writers’ conferences and the disempowering context that writers dwell in, fraught words like “rejection” and “critique.” I would inevitably wind up in the wrong classes, filled with information that I could find at my local bookstore, too embarrassed to stand up and find a class that might be a better fit. Doing it backward, finding success and then developing my craft served me well.
For me, menopause brought relief from bipolar episodes. Menopause also brought a hefty dose of unflappability. And, do not be mistaken, the kind of Hakuna Matada that I now enjoy is a super-power. You could say I have a wealth of organizational, teaching, hospitality, and making-$#*!-happen-on-a-dime skills. Nothing really gets under my skin for long. If you are going to divorce the boss and venture out on your own, you’ve must master the patience factor. I’ve also been divorced (from husbands) enough times to have finally seen that I’m the common denominator. What does all of this have to do with writing, in particular, with submitting work to agents and publishers? After a couple rejections, it really doesn’t work to say, “It’s you, not me.” More about that later.
What does all of this have to do with writing, in particular, with submitting work to agents and publishers? After a couple rejections, it really doesn’t work to say, “It’s you, not me.” More about that later.
When my 4th marriage crumbled several years ago, I still hadn’t done the math. I had uprooted my brood and moved them all to Utah to marry this guy. I’d left a secure job doing night audit with a promotion in the works; a job that provided plenty of writing time. I lost my house, my car, had pre-schoolers at home and had to figure out life–again–from rock bottom. The kids and I moved into one bedroom in the tiny home of my writing partner. Even though we had a roof over our head, I felt like the rug had been ripped out from beneath us. One question pricked at me, settled in and kept me awake: Why is life so unfair? And not just my life, but why is life unfair for billions of people. Even as a near-death experiencer, that life is inequitable for so many didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t get my head around the state of my life, and the state of the world. In that space of despair, I was struck by a thought, one that changed everything.
Being upset that life isn’t fair is like being upset that apples aren’t blue. Apples aren’t blue, and life isn’t fair. Fairness isn’t a condition of this life. The epiphany gave rise to a new question: What difference can I make while my heart still beats? Who am I going to be in the face of “life isn’t fair.” For every inequity, there is also an opportunity to serve.
I was able to dedicate seven months to writing my writing partner’s powerful story of healing, of becoming powerful in the face of impossible circumstances.
When I could finally see that I was choosing the same man in different skin and that I was the source of my unhappy world, I also saw the source of my unfortunate choices. The ugly truth was that I wanted to avoid responsibility. I always ended up with men with some kind of unforgivable character flaw lurking beneath the surface so that if he decided he was doing the decorating, I could conjure the demon within him and check out of that marriage, end it, all with the approval of friends, family, clergy, God, Himself. In my skewed equation, that meant that I was not responsible: he was. Every time.
Years after that divorce, I was able to finally acknowledge that I saw the red flags and I said “I do” anyway. I grew weary of all the drama and stayed single for almost 10 years. I also grew weary of dropping a wad of dough to fly out to NYC or LA for 10 minutes of value; connecting with agents, publishers, and other writers. When the restaurant group I worked for was going under, I also saw that writing on the wall. I was tired; sick and tired of spending my life on other people’s problems instead of dedicating my time and energy to the love of my life; writing. I might be able to write ten more books in my lifetime that forward change on our planet. Or I could empower thousands of others to write ten books in their lifetime that inspire us to end war, end poverty, hunger, violence and every other depravity. I ran the HR department, I laid myself off and pooled my skills, my commitment, and my hope for our world to create Calliope Writing Coach.
It was only then that the man of my dreams walked into my life…well, walked back into my life. I’d known Michael for 10 years. But we were both married to different people at the time. And we didn’t know each other well enough to see that we were both dedicated to the same vision of a planet that works for everyone. We became business partners before we fell in love. Now, writing takes second only to the true love of my life. Now that I take responsibility for my life, including traffic and weather, I can be responsible for whether I have a sad or exquisite marriage. Michael can be nothing less than amazing. And I can be responsible for all kinds of things. Like, does this book premise work? Did I do my job to engage my audience? I can be responsible for agent and publisher feedback. Responsibility isn’t a matter of fault or blame to be divvied out in fractions of a whole. Responsibility is a matter of POV.
Ciao for now,