A few years ago, I spent my free time baking instead of writing. I’d gotten a small, modestly profitable cake business off the ground and fantasized about fame, fortune, and Food Network. I even passed an initial screening and had the opportunity to submit an audition video to Cupcake Wars. While freaking out about the potential rejection, as well as the chaos that would ensue if I was chosen, my therapist at the time had some words of wisdom: you risk nothing by trying.
She’s a very smart woman, so I took her advice. Unable to fathom doing it in front of anyone, I set up a tripod in my basement bakery, filmed it, learned iMovie, edited it, and put it out there for the world to see (all over the course of a weekend.) I didn’t make it onto the show, but making the video was a blast. To this day, it’s a great conversation starter and my go-to random interesting fact. Sure, I’m a little bitter every time Cupcake Wars comes on, but I’m still glad I tried.
My first stab at NaNoWriMo was similar. A friend who’d done it the year before inspired me to take on the epic challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. At the end of November, I had 50,279 words of novel that wasn’t terrible. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that good, either.
Undeterred, I set it aside and gave myself permission to start from scratch. I also gave myself permission to write a book I’d love to read (a romance) and to set it in one of my favorite places (Provincetown). And, well, it worked. The result is my first complete novel and my first work with Bold Strokes Books.
Winter’s Harbor features Lia, science writer, and Alex, a pastry chef. Lia arrives in Provincetown after her ten-year relationship tanks. She’s on her own for the first time since college and is pretty sure a girlfriend is the last thing she needs. Alex lives and works in Provincetown. As far as she’s concerned, Lia might be the perfect distraction for the cold and quiet months of winter.
Like many writers, I wrote a ton of witty dialog and self-indulgent scenes and was pretty happy with myself. My editor, on the other hand, pointed out that I’d neglected to create truly meaningful conflict. I huffed. I put my hands on my hips. I whined. How dare some hot shot editor pick apart my perfect story? After about an hour of this, I admitted she was right.
My premise was that getting involved throws both women out of their comfort zones. They enjoy spending time together (spoiler: there’s a lot of cooking and baking), but neither of them is eager to put her heart on the line. It was only when I started to pick apart what that meant, however, that I got anywhere. When I thought about how much our deeply held insecurities drive us to avoid taking the kinds of chances that make life worthwhile.
Ultimately, that’s what it came down to. Lia and Alex had to grapple with the same little voices we all have. The ones that can make us feel content, but that can also keep us stuck. Clever banter and baked goods notwithstanding, Lia and Alex had to be willing to take a chance—on themselves and each other.
This is all starting to feel like a recurring theme in my life, and a lesson it’s taken me a long time to learn. I’ve still never been brave (or drunk) enough to sing karaoke, but I embrace the belief that the risks pay off. And even if I don’t always get what I want, I learn a lot and mostly manage to enjoy the ride. I think that’s what life is all about.
P.S. If you want to see the gem that didn’t win over the Cupcake Wars people, it’s still on YouTube. I’m still impressed with my editing skills. My fierce competitor face? Not so much.