So, it's done. The book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani. Five years later, I have a complete (revised and twice-edited) draft, ready to send out to others to read. That doesn't mean there won't be revisions, etc., to come, but this does mean - for the first time in five years - this book leaves my own little sphere. Meaning me. As in no one else has read it. No one.
So, yeah, no biggie.
I finished the final edit just yesterday at this beautiful place where I am until tomorrow morning, Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. This gorgeous ex-nunnery is still administered by the Sisters of Wisdom, but is ecumenical now. There are group retreat - spiritual and artistic - of all kinds, but they also allow people like me to come in - artists or writers - to have a private retreat. I've been here for 2 weeks in a beautiful room overlooking countryside, with access to a labyrinth to walk and a pool and amazing farm to table meals. I've learned that my suspicion about nuns these days - that they are more punk rock that anyone else in this time of rampant capitalism that overcodes any kind of 'rebellion' as a new marketing technique - is true. These women are walking a kind of walk most of us could only dream of in terms of integrity, grit, depth and lack of bullshit. Plus, wow, feminists much? Oh yeah. These are American nuns remember, the kind that are forever getting in trouble with the Vatican. Not so much these days with Pope (I have actually read the Bible and sussed it out a bit better than the recent other guys) Francis, but historically, they have been the troublemakers.
The Sisters have been very supportive of me here, and see the links between my life and work and theirs. They speak of things like 'the flow' and understand what deep thinking about one's self and the world really means. They also understand what it's like to commit for ages to something that is not very popular or well-understood. However - and this is my favorite thing about them - they seem so Joyful. These are not dour women wandering around imposing rules, but instead people who have committed to something larger than themselves and are reaping the reward for that, which is, unless I am completely missing something: joyful living. Plus, they are really funny (and get my jokes).
So, I couldn't have ordered up a better place to finish a book about my grandmothers. The many women with whom I have spoken with while here - not just the Sisters, but also other retreaters - are interested in this story about my grandmothers - and their grandmothers - and unearthing the story of women in general. They reminded me why I was doing this project in the first place, which helped keep me motivated.
I am also now, as you can probably imagine, scared out of my mind to send it out. What if it just sucks and I've spent 5 years only to be looked at like an idiot child by people who I send it to - who will probably feel sorry for me and not know how to tell me it's Just Not Quite Good Enough...etc.
So, there's that.
But, send it out I will. It's time. I know what it is. It can stand or fall. May need changes here and there, but the core exists. This terrifies me to say because of all the screaming self-doubt voices, but it's true. I've done as much as I can now - and need others to look in on the Thing.
The Thing is btw 250K, which would be about 650 pages in paperback. This may seem extreme, but it covers two women's entire lives, one from 1915-1992 (in other words through the beginning to end of the Soviet Union and Cold War...for starters) and another one from 1916-1980. The more research I did, the more I saw was missing, the more I tried to add, the more I also cut away...and this is what I have. I believe they deserve a voice that takes up this much time and space, because women like them have never had that time and space, and it's time - past time - to hear their voices.
So, wish me luck as I send this manuscript out into the world - that I find the right agent and publisher - that Dick and Jani find those who can shepherd their voices into the larger world, in a way that people will want to take notice and listen.
If that happens, I will know my life has not been lived in vain. This process has taken everything from me for five years - most of my time, heart, intellect, spirit and even love. I have been barely available to anyone or anything else. I have devoted my life to this project. I have to believe it was worth it.
If nothing else, I could teach a hella 20th C. American history class now - I even know when sliced bread was invented. Women rock, and they keep the earth on its orbit. This too I have learned. I never used to believe in gender - and I know these days (hilariously as per usual I am out of synch) it's trendy to dispute gender as a valid identity, but I gotta say: women - historically - have been left out of the history books and even the general ways of telling stories - only the exceptions are heard from - but not the average female life. We know almost Everything about male consciousness in the 20th century in minute detail, but the female consciousness - except as an Object of study by men? - not so much. This is my contribution in order to redress that imbalance.
p.s. The room where I have stayed is called the Our Lady of the Fiat room. You can't make this shit up, kids. Yes! Let it be so!
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.