Princess: Booking the future | AspenTimes.com

Princess: Booking the future

Alison Berkley Margo

I honestly don’t know if I have a single word left in me to write to you guys today.

Last night at 3 a.m., I sent a first draft of my manuscript to a freelance editor in New York who I paid to read it. That’s right — I haven’t gotten paid for the decade I spent working on this project and now I’m paying someone else. Awesome line of work I’m in.

And let me tell you, writing a book and trying to have it published is a lot like trying to get pregnant and have a baby.

Like, I’m even a little reluctant to put this out there. One, because I don’t want to jinx it, and two, because now every time I see you, you’re going to be like, “So how’s the book coming?”

And if the book ends up being a total flop, it doesn’t get picked up by an agent and/or it never sells or sees the light of day, I’ll have to deal with that question just like I had to field questions about trying to get pregnant.

“I assume it’s OK to ask you, since you write about it in the paper,” people would say.

For a while, I was like, “Well, we’re working on it.”

And people would go, “That’s the fun part!” But really, there is nothing fun about tracking your cycle and taking ovulation tests and turning your husband into an inseminator. Not to mention once you’re full with fertility medicine, there is no sex involved. It’s like the opposite of sex, but just as invasive but with doctors and medication, technology and surgery instead of the person you love. It totally sucks, and I would say don’t do it unless it’s your absolute last resort.

When the baby thing didn’t work out, I decided it was finally time. After 10 years I’d put all my eggs in this basket, so to speak. Finish the book, finish the book, finish the frigging book.

I started working on it in 2004 when I was introduced to a literary agent who was interested in my whole Aspen gig and helped me come up with the idea for a novel.

So for a long time I talked about this novel. And every time I talked about it, it felt like something that would never happen, like a New Year’s Eve resolution, going on a fad diet or meeting up that friend who cancels on you every single time. Even the word sounded made up, so when I said it I felt like a little girl walking around the closet in her mother’s high-heeled shoes. It felt very make believe.

I had no idea how to write a novel, or anything about the art of fiction, so I just went for it.

The agent suggested that I write a partial manuscript and she said might be able to sell that, which would be a lot easier. So I wrote 150 pages of a story I knew wasn’t that great, and sent it to her. She rejected it and told me she’d need a completed manuscript if I wanted to submit to her again.

Three years later, I took an Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop with Pam Houston at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass. We were supposed to bring the first 18 pages of our manuscript to the workshop. The day before it was my turn to submit to the group, I threw mine away and started over. Pam taught me how to write fiction that week. She has a way of putting big, huge things into small, little words, and that is exactly why she’s such an amazing writer.

Somehow three more years went by, and in 2010 I decided to take another one of these workshops designed to help writers with their manuscripts. This one was online. We’d go over 80 pages in eight weeks. Even though I kept the pages I wrote with Pam, I started over. Each week I’d write those 10 pages just before they were due.

The instructor, a senior editor at Random House, liked my pages. She asked me who my agent was. She asked to see the manuscript when it was done.

That would be enough to kick most writers into gear, but no. I toiled for another four years. Long enough that my hook-up left Random House to strike out on her own as a freelance editor.

No, it took running out of options for me to get my act together. It took me running out of dreams. I got the wonderful husband part dialed and the dream house taken care of (though truth be told, I could easily spend a few hundred thousand dollars getting this place exactly how I want it) but it stopped there. The beautiful baby never came.

So, I did what any psychotic artist would do, and I dove headlong into my work. Ryan put a gun to my head and said, “Finish the book.” And when I didn’t, he shackled me to my desk with a bowl of water like he would give the dogs and three pieces of toast a day until I finished.

OK, so I’m exaggerating. But he definitely pushed me.

For the last week I’ve been up every night until 3 or 4 in the morning reading and editing what I’ve come to call my “monsterscript.” It’s way too long, I’m way too close to it and I honestly have no idea if it’s any good or not.

My gut tells me this is just a first draft, so my work here more than likely is not done. But I know that this is my baby. And I’m all in on this gamble. I know this whole process could take 30 weeks or more, so only time will tell.

I just hope that this time, my star is born.

The Princess never wrote this column. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.