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There are a few things I've been meaning to say.....

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It's rather hard to believe that I haven't written in my blog since September. September 6th, to be precise.

In my defence, a great deal has happened since summer, and I had felt a bit shy about discussing most of what has gone on. Also, I have been quite busy. I've been trying to get some perspective on my life, a better view of things. Something like this fellow imagined by Giotto, and painted in Padua's Capella degli Scrovegni sometime between 1304-1306. It's from the fresco Christ Entering Jerusalem. I highly recommend the chapel, it's spectacular.

But back to me. First of all, in August I left my job as a speechwriter. I felt annoyed all the time that I was at work, and as 2010 was the year I turned 50 (which really did happen, yikes!) I decided that I didn't want to waste any more of my life in a work situation that no longer fit.

I also decided that I could afford to take a few months away from gainful employment, and really think about what I wanted to do with my life. Besides travel to Italy. Or, live in Italy. Those are two things that I know I want to do, but they're not necessarily practical. At least, they don't generate an income for me to live on.

I didn't really want to return to life as a reporter – I loved that work for 20 years, but it no longer fit. So, as summer blurred into fall, I tried to think hard about what it is that I really wanted to do.

Actually, I came to realize that I knew the answer all along, and all of the personality and aptitude tests that my career coach gave me simply buttressed that knowledge. I'm a writer, I love writing and I want to become a better writer.

This really came as no surprise, given that I have always made my living -- and a pretty good one at that – by writing, in some form or other. I came to realize, however, that the style I'm most interested in developing is writing fiction.

Based on this, I felt justified in using most the 15 or so weeks of blissful unemployment that I enjoyed from August through November to finish my first novel.

There, I've said it publicly. I've written a novel. And now, I'm starting work on a second novel to keep myself from being too anxious about the first work; and about how I'm going to get an agent and then a publisher and then sell the first novel.

Both are works of historical fiction and both – naturally – are set in Italy; the first, in Perugia. Naturally. Anyone who has ever even glanced at this blog will know how Italy and its art and its history fascinate me. Umbria, and Perugia, in particular. So the past 18 months or so of research and writing my first novel have been a true labour of love.

Now, the real labour (or the climb, as depicted in the above fresco by Giotto) begins: first, finding a literary agent who is interested in my project and me, and then helping that agent to find a publisher for my Perugia novel. I believe the odds of success are greatly stacked against me, but what the hell! They always have been, it seems. And it has been such a pleasure to work on this project that it has been worth it.

At the same time, to keep the wolves from the door and my Internet connection paid for and intact, I recently began a new paying gig: a short-term contract position in strategic communications that's quite interesting, but also has a wonderfully temporary feel to it. It's a bit like dating, I suppose, and I've become very wary of being tied down.

All of this has meant that I haven't had as much time or energy to keep up with my blog. Truth be told, I also found it hard in the past few months to write about anything aside from what has been happening in my life, particularly the novel. Yet because I wasn't ready to talk about all of this, it became a kind of blogger's block. When you can't speak about certain things, it sometimes means you can't speak at all.

But now, perhaps, that block will dissolve....

Some of my blogging friends have suggested I revamp this blog to now focus more on my fiction writing, and the business that surrounds it: from research to writing, to finding an agent, etc. Natrually, Italy would remain a big part of it, since that's where my research and my heart are most engaged.

I like this idea of a re-oriented blog, but I haven't quite figured out what form it will take (it might no longer be appropriate to use SlowTrav's blogging software) And what to call it, how to position it. I think that will come.

To be continued, at some point.

Comments (27)

Hi Sandra, good to hear from and about you! How perfect that you were able to take some "blissful unemployment" time for yourself and your novel. Makes sense that you needed a blogging break too (though I have missed reading your blog!).

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday and all the best for 2011!

Anne:

BRAVA my friend!!!! I am so excited for you and thrilled that you are following your heart's passion, this is absolutely wonderful news!!

I cannot wait to read your novel, Sandra. You have such a gift for writing - your entries are infused with humour and depth and fascinating details - I know it will be wonderful. Plus I adore historic fiction set in Italy - what could be better?! :)

Thank you so much for sharing your news. Happy New Year to you!!!

Mindy:

Oh Sandra, this is very exciting and very admirable!! I think you are very gifted in your writing; I'm confident you will have no problem finding an agent and a publisher. When they make your novel into a movie, I hope George Clooney gets a starring role; perhaps playing Giotto himself! I have dibs on hanging out on the set with you!!

You went for it and I'm sure it will pay off!!!!!!!

Really really super molto thrilled for you!!!!!

jane:

Sandra, well, this is really exciting and, of course, I send all my best wishes and hopes for the next part of your journey--finding an agent and publisher. I am also dying (figuratively) to know what your novel is about--historical, current setting? Romance? Intrigue? I would guess historical intrigue.

It is so refreshing to have someone implementing a dream as most of us don't do that--we just keep dreaming.

More curiosity: for whom did you speech write?

I'll be looking forward to your next post.

sheri:

You sound so content with your decision. Best of luck with this new endeavor!

Amy:

Good for you! I totally understand the desire to reassess and reinvent your career---for similar reasons, I walked away from law school many years ago and found my true calling. You have a power with words, and I am so glad you're letting them carry you onward in this new adventure!

Sandra,
Your life has taken a very exciting turn. It took a lot of guts to make this decision about your future career. I am proud of you!

jgk:

Congratulations, Sandra. I am always looking for good historical fiction, set in Italy so I am your potential audience/reader. Bring it on!

Congratulations, Sandra! As a bookseller whose favorite genre is Historical Fiction, specifically Italian, I'll wait impatiently for the book to come out and then I hand-sell the hell out of it for you. :grin:

sandrac:

Thanks so much, everyone, for all of your support!!

Annie, I was really surprised at how much I loved having that block of time to focus on the novel. I'd done much of the work on it over the previous year or so, but it was wonderful to hunker down and just think about my writing.

Also, thanks very much for suggesting the Venice books – I've already picked up Laven's Virgins of Venice for my research (as you know, my next novel is set in Venice!) I'll be looking to you and your blog for more research advice down the road (or I suppose I should say, down the calle!)

Anne, thanks very much for your kind words – I'm a fan of historic fiction as well, which is why I finally decided on this genre for my novel. Conventional wisdom seems to be that we should write about what we know, but I decided I'd rather write about what I'm really interested in!

Best to you and your new career path in 2011!

Hi Mindy, your words are SO generous (as is the offer of your husband George Clooney to play the male lead when my novel becomes a movie.) George would be perfect for the part of Michele, now I just need to cast the heroine. I'll bring you in as a consultant when casting starts, hope you like Umbria.

Thanks Jane, it is historical fiction with some intrigue and some romance. I chose a time and place that I found really interesting – Renaissance Italy, mainly Perugia. It certainly had some very vivid characters. I hope you'll get to read it!

As a speechwriter, my subject matter could not have been more different from my novel: I wrote for the Governing Council of the Bank of Canada, our version of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Interest rates, inflation, exchange rates – that sort of thing. I learned a lot there. And speechwriting can be really interesting. But, the time came for me to leave.

Thanks Sheri, I'm feeling pretty good now – we'll see in a few months how I stand up to the inevitable rejection that comes with the publishing business!

Hi Amy, that's so interesting – I didn't realize that you once studied law. Very wise of you to realize early on that it wasn't right for you and to be able to change paths. I don't think early childhood education can be easy, but knowing that you're following your calling would help enormously.

Sandra,
I was thinking about your blog the other day, and wondering if I'd missed some of your posts.

I now understand your "blog block" dilemma, I can only nod my head in agreement with the other comments: you have a talent for writing that shines brightly.

I look forward to following your blog's transition, and to reading more about your novel(s). :)
Cheers, dear - here's to a FABULOUS 2011!

Hi Sandra: It's so nice to see you back on these blog rolls and to be a part of your metamorphosis. Kudos to you for accepting the challenge of an internal calling to examine your life's course. Sounds so exciting and I'd be thrilled to read your first novel. Best wishes on this continued journey for finding a publisher.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, this is such wonderful news. It is so cool that you are following your passion. And you are such a talented writer. I've missed reading your blog too but it sounds like you have made great use of your away time.

I totally love reading romantic novels with some intrigue and for it to be set in Italy. Perfect. I look forward to reading your first novel Sandra. I think it is soooooo cool.

Wishing you the very best in 2011! Happy New Year!

sandrac:

Thanks Nancy, and thanks Jan for putting a human face to my future readers!

Deborah, I really appreciate your support and offer of help selling my novel! I hope I get the chance to take you up on that.

Hi Colleen, I had been quite blog blocked but I hope I’ve come out of it now. I’ve missed talking about Italian art and all of the other things that we love about Italy.

I hope that you, too, have a wonderful 2011 that includes lots of great art and travel!

Menehune, thanks for your description of these changes as a metamorphosis – so much more poetic (and I believe, accurate) than a mid-life crisis.

Hi Kathy, I’ve missed “travelling” with you in Europe, hope you’re settling in okay after your exciting trip. Thanks for your kind words and I hope you, too, have a wonderful 2011!

nims:

Ah, you've decided to go public. Good on you. It takes real guts to do all that you have done in the last few months. I'm so proud of you. You rock, girl! I have no doubt you'll succeed as an author.

sandrac:

Wow, thanks Nirmala, you're so kind! Maybe in my next novel I should try to combine financial markets, murder and mayhem, in a historical context....

nims:

Great idea! I'm pretty sure you have models aplenty to choose from, for murder victims ;)
Happy 2011, Sandra!

Kathryn:

Happy New Year! I could be GC's driver (it is pretty well the only skill listed in movie credits that I could perform).

Good - I was wondering where you had vanished to. had it not been for blog comments I'd have been worried and sent a search party out to Ottawa!

I read many blogs and you really are one of the best writers out there. I have no doubt that you'll be a brilliant success at this new venture.

One day, when you're famous, we'll be watching you during a TV performance and we'll be sitting back saying 'we knew her when . . .'

It is a commendable thing to pursue your passion - I wish everyone did that. Hell, I wish more people knew what there passion was or had one for that matter. LOL

During your career you've done a lot of great writing but had no choice over the topic - news is news and the economy is, well gross. How thrilling for you to now have the best of both worlds.

I await my autographed copy.

sandrac:

Hi Kathryn!

I appreciate how you've stayed in touch but I have to say that I do see thru your "offer" to become George's driver/kidnapper. I suspect that like the woman in his Fiat car ads, you'd drive off with him and not be seen again!

Jerry, I'm so flattered by your kind words. I wish I had your discipline to blog daily no matter how busy you get with conferences, home renos, party-throwing.

When I become wealthy and buy the house/former chicken coop in Italy, you'll be one of my first guests!

Good for you! I love the idea of restructuring or changing your life at age 50. I became AARP-eligible in 2009 and made changes (couldn't realistically change jobs though) in my life based on what I felt was important in my life. Good luck with your future writings.

Congratulations on finishing your novel. I am really looking forward to reading it! I hope you are having some luck in finding a literary agent.

As far as the movie goes, I would like to put my name in as the barista. Being an owner of a Nespresso machine, I believe I can make George very happy :)

Sorry for being so late in commenting. I have been very bad lately in keeping up with everyone.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!!

sandrac:

Thanks, Barbara -- hope all is going well with your personal restructuring.

Hi Girasoli, thanks for all of your support. I've just begun the agent search and I'm guessing there will be some blog posts in that. And I still want to re-work my blog, all of yours are wonderful to look at, very inspiring.

I think you'd be perfect as barista, and perhaps that'll be the clincher for getting George to sign.

Hope you have a wonderful 2011, with some travel to Italy!

colleenk:

Sandra I am so excited to read this as belated as I am to this party!

I am absolutely sure that you have chosen the right path and I commend you on your bravery in doing so!

As others have said you are a very gifted writer. I share many of your passions so it is a great joy to read your travel/life reflections.

I also think 50 is a great time for change. As I edge towards 60 I am more frequently wondering how to be able to follow my passions and still keep a roof over my head!

Brava! And I too look forward to an autograped copy.

sandrac:

Thanks so much, Colleen!

I agree, it can be so hard to try to remain solvent while at the same time following our passions -- especially when our passions involve Italy! I wonder if we'd feel as drawn to it if we lived there and ate Italian food and drank Italian wine all the time...maybe the unattainability is what keeps it so interesting?

Dana:

Hi Sandra!
I am soooo late catching up with blogs and I was soooo excited to read your news! Huge congratulations to you on all your major decisions and changes, and on the completion of the novel. And the very best of luck to you as you move forward with these wonderful new endeavors.

Dana

Tourmama:

Sandra - have not had time to check blogs in a LONG time - and was thrilled to see your news! We all know you can write -- and now KUDOS for having completed a major project.

I am so excited for you - and look forward to sharing in your continued journey as an author as well as traveler.

Judy

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