The Editor's class at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, is reading two of my manuscripts this week: "The Star-Written Summer," a young adult coming-of-age/love story of an aspiring rock star and her summer at the beach before college with her two best friends, the love of her life, and their psycho Spanish teacher from Hell, and "The Remarkable Roving Bishop," a true-life novel about a building inspector, his Amish stories, and the horse-drawn community who saves him. It's based on my father's past summer when he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer.
I didn't know the professor at all, I was just given his email address and a tip from another writer friend that he was looking for finished manuscripts for his class. I gave him "The Star-Written Summer" and he returned with such glowing remarks, it boosted my confidence. Here's what he had to say:
"Over the past week or so I've read about the first two-thirds. I'll finish it this weekend, but I can say already that I think it will work very well for my class. What I mean by that is that it is, in my view, a solid manuscript--well written, with interesting main characters and an interesting structure. I can see it as a successful published book. I think it will be a challenge for my students to come up with suggestions for improvement.
I like the first-person narrator and the basic "diary of a summer" structure, with the present-tense chapter openers (when the narrator is heading to college) and the past-tense day-by-day account of her memorable summer at the shore. I like her song-writing and the promise of the "open mic" night, etc., and I like the character of Damon and what he represents for Angel, the narrator. I'm also intrigued by the religious undertones, but I'll have to finish the manuscript to comment more about that.... In any case, there's a lot to chew on here, and that's why I like it for the purposes of my class."
That gave me confidence to start thinking about pitching it to agents. However, in the meantime I finished The Remarkable Roving Bishop and I needed beta readers. I asked the professor to be a beta reader after my friend, who gave me his email address to begin with, wondered what Mr. Giles would think of it. Turned out, he grew up in Amish country (Lancaster County, PA where the book is set) and agreed to. A couple weeks later and a few chapters into the book, he offered to have his class read it too as a non-fiction manuscript. I gladly accepted.
The ten year anniversary of the Amish school-house shooting, my father's first day on the job as that very same township's zoning officer, is this October. Ideally, I wanted to have the book out by then and started pitching to agents, on a hope an a prayer, that one would like it, know a publisher who would like it, and have it out by then. This is almost definitely unrealistic, but I figured I'd at least try. If nothing else I will self-publish that one.
I've decided to get back to pitching The Star-Written Summer after the class gets back with me with their comments. My original idea was to include the song in the book along with it. I thought this was groundbreaking. Come to find out this has been done. Ha! Good ideas tend to come up every now and then independently from each other. Did you know two people from separate places on the earth came up with the Rubik's cube? Weird, eh?
Currently, I'm back to work on my original novel idea that sparked my interest in writing fiction, having taken pause to get more writing practice in. It's a story of a computer programmer who moves to the country in search of a more meaningful life. Where on earth did I get that idea? ;-)
Editor's Class at GVSU