I’ve just come from an hour-long meeting with the last official “reader” of a spiral-bound copy of the manuscript. And I still have goosebumps.
After two years of feedback from regulars in a writers’ group, I decided to ask nine more to weigh in on the story as well: family members who also are bona fide authors and/or editors, a friend who happens to be a professional psychic medium, someone with ties to the world of hip hop, and the like.
Thanks to the surprise-matchmaking of a pair of literary friends, I also had offers from a couple of teen readers. Both are part of a teen advisory group, with a penchant for dissecting and appreciating YA literature. We were strangers to each other, not meeting until each had read the manuscript. The last and latest confided to the bookstore owner that my fictional story happened to be eerily similar to her own life experiences.
On Friday, when we met for the first time, I asked her what she’d meant. She reported that her own Ukrainian grandmother taught her to paint pysanky when she was very young. A lovely coincidence, I thought. I joked that we could go on the road together – me selling my books and this almost-15-year-old selling her intricately-painted eggs!
But the girl was just getting started. Over the course of an hour, she described one after another parallel to her own life. They were, at times, the most specific of links: her own background, like the character Claire’s, in ballet, jazz and tap; her self-consciousness as the oldest in a group of much younger breakdance students; the close friendship (in this case, with a boy) begun at her first series of breaking classes; this boy’s summer job caddying at the very country club where Nick gets a job as a caddy; a mother who is every bit the worrier that Claire’s is… the list goes on.
My friend, Suzanne, calls them “markers,” little signs of confirmation that one is on the right path. For me, the amazing interweaving of imagined story and “true” story came as a cosmic nudge to keep moving. Forward.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein