Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Culmination point

In a few days, I will officially join the ranks of the published. I will go from being a writer to being an author.

For all intents and purposes, I already am. I have held Powerless the novel in my hands. I have seen occasional spikes on its sales charts on Amazon, indicating that someone (or several someones) pre-ordered it. It’s been reviewed by Kirkus (“A gripping and thoughtful psychological tale….”), Literary Titan (“…a riveting post-apocalyptic novel….”), Mindi D. at NetGalley (“I couldn’t put it down.”) and others. And in five days, I will stand before a small gathering of folks at The Smithy Gallery in Cooperstown and deliver a few words that I’d better get working on.

Photo by H. Raab

As I think about what I’m going to say, the phrase “culmination of a dream” keeps coming to mind. It’s the sort of thing you hear people say when something like this happens, and it sounds great, but aside from being a bit of a cliché, it’s also not really accurate. Consider that “culmination” refers to the final, highest, or decisive point. If official publication of Powerless on Wednesday is the culmination, then it’s all downhill from there! Those sales ranks will spike and then, like Venus after culminating in the southwestern evening sky, sink, sink, sink until they’re out of sight. If Wednesday is the culmination of my dream, then Powerless is it and there will never be another “by Jeff O’Handley” book again, and maybe someday I’ll get an email from someone who will rave about Powerless and ask if there were any others and I’ll have to thank them and say, No, sorry, that was the only one. I don’t want that. Which means I need to replant my butt firmly in this chair and get back to work, but that’s another post for another day.

When you see people being interviewed after achieving some great success—a kid being drafted first overall in their chosen sport, an actor winning an Academy Award, a writer achieving mega-best seller status, they’re often asked, “Did you ever dream of this?” and I’m frequently amazed when they answer with some form of “No.” Maybe they’re just being humble and don’t want to look like some kind of egomaniac. I do. I dream of Powerless taking off and becoming a best seller. I dream of awards. Of long lines at a “meet the author” event, of appearing on Fresh Air, of having to defend the director’s choices after the movie/TV adaptation comes out, of having the option to write full time if I want. I dream of a string of successful books and happy readers. I don’t expect any of this to happen; I don’t dwell on it, I don’t obsess over it, but I definitely dream it. Publication of Powerless is perhaps the culmination of one dream, but it’s also the beginning of others.

[Post script]: I realize I already am an author, as I have had works published before. It was a thrill getting a couple of short pieces published, no doubt about it, but this is a freakin’ novel, and that feels different to me. I guess because I’m not a short story writer.

Image: Venus and the crescent moon, H. Raab. Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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