News from Heidi
Here you can find news about the book, festival, and what's happening with Heidi.
The diary entries in the book were the hardest to write. I studied my own journals as well as published writers' diaries to figure out what the rhythm should be to make the words seem like they had just been dashed off --and weren't carefully phrased and crafted.
It was easy to avoid working on the manuscript--I felt so often stuck--so the Poets & Writers magazine calendar of contest and submission deadlines became my task master. The first deadline I met was a September 2003 deadline for the Bronx Writers' Center Chapter One Contest. Of course, the deadline came in the middle of a week I was working away from home for the NBA. But I kept focused. I did a final re-write on the way to the site -- and once I arrived I printed out the chapter in the hotel business center at an ungodly price. But it was well worth it! I won!
After the trauma of almost losing the manuscript, I used to email it to myself every day at two different email addresses. That meant my mailbox got really big. So big, in fact, that my Outlook just crashed the other day with little hope of recovery. This is a sad fact rather than a fun one. :(
I almost lost the manuscript while I was working on a major revision a couple of years back when my laptop crashed to the ground and died. Luckily after several days of working at it, Bharthi Hornat was able to recover the manuscript file as well as most of the other files on my computer. Now I have an external hard drive to save back-up files and use an on-line back-up service! I learned the lesson well.
On Thanksgiving Day one year ago, I had about a week to go before the final manuscript was due to the publisher. I was panicking! I had a terrible cold that not even the Viking Warrior treatment could cure (the treatment is my cousin Laila's invention, but I named it). And here is what I was writing in my Moleskine journal: "It's weird to have created these characters who--who need to be real people . . . but I guess I would say that I feel a sense of hope because I read-I read the manuscript and it really is a book. There are threads I need to put together but I feel more certain that I can get it done. What if I have--what if I have written a story that other people can enjoy too?"
The character's name "Brick" is lovingly inspired by my friend's son, Brick, who was born the same week I came up with the character. (Also, this little cutester was just named "Student of the Month.")
At one point, I shopped the manuscript around (the first "Brick" chapters) as a novella called Low Sky Dreaming. The novella placed second in the Quarterly West Novella Competition judged by best-selling writer Bret Lott who wrote the Oprah Book Club Book, Jewel.
I did a reading from the manuscript (pre-Bellwether Prize) to an audience of about 200. I was so excited! Then I learned that the students' attendance was a class requirement. Still, it was a great reading!
I chose the name Nella for the mother in honor of Nella Larsen, the Harlem Renaissance writer who was black and Danish, and is my literary muse.
When I'm working on a writing project, I write the acknowledgments page first and then keep adding to it. It's kind of like writing the Oscar acceptance speech in advance: just in case, I really do finish the book, I'll remember everyone I want to thank.