Broadway is on its way back after what seems like forever. In preparation, many regional theatres are mounting outdoor shows this summer. I’m attending my first on Friday— the musical Once. A dear friend is the sound designer, which is why I decided to take this plunge into a large social gathering. In order to attend the after party, a copy of my vaccination card needed to be sent in, and a Covid test needs to be taken before I can enter the theatre space. Is it gloomy Gus of me to say— I hope the production is worth it?
Nothing matches the power of live theatre. When I walked out of To Kill A Mockingbird starring Jeff Daniels, I couldn’t stop chanting “All rise, all rise, all rise.” But not all shows deliver an emotional punch strong enough to resonate from here to eternity. The same is true in the world of books. I admire and covet the works of Stephen King, Nora Ephron, and John Irving. But I haven’t been over the rainbow in love with every single piece they’ve written. Slumps and slips happen. If I ever get out of the trenches and onto the avenues of publishing, my readers will also prefer some stories over others. No artist has a perfect track record. Well, maybe the Beatles. Still, many fans categorize their film Magical Mystery Tour as a flop. Why? Lack of story focus.
Ever since I accepted the invitation to see Once, I’ve been pondering the 11 o’clock number— the theatre term for the big showstopping song that happens late in the second act. It’s usually the second to last song of the show, like “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy. It’s the moment when the main character either doubles down on achieving her goals, or undergoes an unexpected change of heart, after which the end or climax is inevitable.
The end of my life isn’t near— fingers crossed it’s far beyond the horizon. But it’s been impossible to shake the feeling that I’m in the midst of an 11 o’clock number in my writing life. It’s only a matter of days before I hit send on my first batch of Agent queries. And then what? Write the next novel, of course. But why?
I wrote Kaitlyn’s story because I needed to create a heroine who was able to overcome all the negative forces against her. If she could succeed where I failed, maybe there would be hope for me. Up until 2019 the odds were against me. Then along came the 13th Draft— the 11 o’clock number for Kaitlyn’s story. After getting only one request for a full in the last round of queries, I could’ve tossed Kait aside and written something new. Instead, I doubled down on my mission to write a publishable story because deep down, I understood it was the best way to prove I was not the failure I believed myself to be. And although, there’s no guarantee of a publishing deal in my future, my heart knows Kait’s story is worthy of publication. Victory! A satisfying end to a very long journey.
Now do you see why I’m in the 11 o’clock number of my writing life? I have goals— finish the memoir and research the historical to see if the idea is as magical as it’s led me to believe. But my purpose: to prove I’m not a failure is no longer viable. So here I am. Stuck inside the 11 o’clock number of my writing life— “A Writer In Search of a Purpose.”