by Peggy Strack
While relaxing with my soon to be husband, Keith, on a park bench in Dupont Circle, DC, I witnessed a compelling interaction between an intense upscale white male who was losing a series of blitz chess games to an elderly African American male. The upscale man’s wife and daughters waited impatiently as Dad and husband insisted on more games.
It struck me how this family had all the trimmings of the “good life”—expensive clothes, attractive, healthy—yet the wife looked sad; the dad looked angry; and the daughters looked constrained in their prim outfits. They represented what so many strive for, but in the process had possibly lost something more valuable than the American dream—authentic living.
How were these people spending their time and what did they really want to be doing? At that point, I turned to Keith and said, “Wouldn’t that be a great start for a novel?”
The idea simmered in my head and eventually ignited into a fire. I had to write that story, but when? I was a single parent of two sons transitioning into college, planning a wedding, working full time as a speech-language pathologist for a school district, working part time as clinical supervisor at a college, and maintaining a house. Sure, write a novel in my spare time.
Fortunately, I had taken the audio version of Excuses Be Gone by Wayne Dyer out of the library. After listening to it, I decided I not only could, but would write that novel…500 words a day. I kept that commitment to myself. I even wrote 500 words on my wedding day, Christmas, and the day of my house closing. I must confess. I did not write the week I moved or the day after my wedding.
What about the “how” part?
I have a B.A. in Journalism/Communications from the State University of New York and have taken many creative writing classes. I took online fiction writing classes and delved into books on novel creation. I’m also an avid reader, which is a must for every writer.
Words gushed from my head and heart to my fingers onto the keyboard. Many days I wrote far more the 500 words. After several months, I had a rough draft of a novel.
Then came the editing. I needed to learn more so I called on the writing community for help. I enrolled in a fiction class at a community bookstore and literary center. I then took a writing class taught by acclaimed author, James Lasdun, through the New York State Writers Institute. This led to acceptance into the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College.
Four years after I witnessed that scene in Dupont Circle, A Stop in the Park is now a published novel. I hope you enjoy the journey of Michael and Jamie Stolis as they search for the life they were destined to live.