Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Publishing and Sharks Have in Common

This morning I'm thinking of the 12 people who went to work at Building 197 in Washington, DC's Navy yard yesterday morning who will never return to their families and loved ones. Events and tragedies such as this one boggle the mind. We just never know when it's our turn. Even with a strong faith, we have a hard time understanding it all, especially when children are involved. I have a hard time with that.

We're left with many questions. Was this merely their time? Did any of those who perished have a feeling that they should have called in sick that morning? Is there a rhyme or reason to life? Why do good people die and why do others escape within an inch of their life? How does it feel to be next to someone who loses his or her life and you escape? I don't know the answers.

While taking a break from swimming in the waters of Cape Hatteras two weeks ago, I watched a black Lab try very hard not to follow his master into the surf. He or she had a hard time remaining in a sitting position, but ultimately obeyed his master who repeatedly told him to sit and stay. The Lab continued to wiggle his bottom and wag his tail in anticipation for the call from his master that never came, so he remained on the shore. When I caught this shot, the Lab raised a paw as if he were begging to join his master. I could feel his nervousness and see his jittery actions from where I was sitting in my comfy beach chair with a cold Dos XX beer.

Minutes later, a few yards away, a surf fisherman caught a Black Tip shark in three feet of water. I knew he was reeling in something large and 15 minutes later, I saw the shark's fin. Holy shnikies. I shuddered to think what could happened to the dog's master or the dog had he gone into the water. My friends, their children and I swam in that very spot earlier in that morning. Wow. I didn't want to think about that, either. Needless to say, everyone on the beach remained close to shore or swam in the tide pool that afternoon with no life guard present.

Life. We just never know what's coming down the road for us, sometimes at warp speed. Did the dog know the shark was out there? Did he want to protect and warn his master? Who knows.

Ever since the release of the movie, Jaws and watching Shark Week religiously for years, I've remained in waist high water and very vigilant in the ocean. Murky waters and I don't go in. But, I remember that it bugged me that I couldn't force myself to go in deeper that morning. The waters were crystalline blue and I was excited to ride the high waves with my friend's children on their boogie boards. And then, voila. There was my worst fear realized--a damn shark.

I felt conflicted as the shark was reeled in and flopped around on the shore. My emotions went in so many directions. I love nature, animals and here was this majestic shark with a huge hook in its mouth. I fidgeted on the beach and called out to hurry up and remove the hook. I wanted the fisherman to lead the shark back into the water as soon as humanly possible which he did. I didn't want the shark to die and yet, I wanted that shark out of the water because I wanted to swim and ride the waves and for people to be safe!

I ended up going back into the ocean the next day with a fishing rod and blood worms as bait (should have used squid or shrimp). I surf fished for the first time in waist-high water. I loved it. I was taking a risk, but that's what I had to do. I had to get back into the water, but I wanted to be distracted by fishing which I love. I don't get it either, so don't worry if you're not following my thought processes. We're all more complicated that we realize! It was the only way I could return to the ocean.

Since this is a blog about the writing life and I'm a writer, of course, my thoughts go to my novel, A Decent Woman. I dove into clear waters by writing my book in 2006 and wasn't worried about the future. I had no clue about the writing business or how difficult it would be to see my novel in print. I had to leave my manuscript a year later when my marriage fell apart and I left Europe where I'd lived for 13 years. The waters quickly became murky and I didn't touch my novel for four years while I worked full time, saw my kids through university, and went back to school. I jumped back into the writing waters in 2010 and with editing and querying agents, have swum against heavy currents since then with the publishing business as it is today. Some days, the waters are crystal clear for me and others are murky as hell when I want to chuck it all and self-publish.

Would I have started writing my novel if I'd known how frustrating and 'dangerous' to my emotions and mindset writing and the publishing world can be when you're trying to sell your book? Yes. I love the ocean and writing and yes, I have a fear of sharks and never seeing my book in print. What can you do, but protect yourself as much as possible and continue living and writing which I intend to do.

I've just had to develop thicker skin and remain committed to my novel-length manuscript and second novel which I'm presently writing. Don't wait to write if you feel that urge. Just do it. Jump in and swim.



  1. Great story, Ellie. You are a brave woman. I don't know if I could have gone back in the water. "Just when you think it's safe ..."

  2. Hi Linda! Yes, I went back in, but it was scary as hell! LOL! Hope you're well and enjoying a beautiful Fall!