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The VVA Veteran Reviews Prelude

Prelude was recently reviewed by David Wilson, a reviewer from the site “Books in Review II.” Wilson's review eloquently chronicles his reaction to the novel alongside his own experience in Vietnam. "I highly recommend this novel, both as a good read and as a glimpse into the lives of...

SD Sawyer

So . . . I’ve gotta write a novel?

Loved my 8th graders, but when I decided to retire, some took it personally.  (Eighth graders take most things personally.  But they still like teachers!  In fact, ‘tweens become little groupies if they really like you.)  You never told us you were even thinking about retiring.  Why are you doing this? You don’t seem that old.”

“I’m retiring to . . . “  and this is what started the whole thing, ”. . . to write a novel.”  That answer quieted them. I didn’t think anything more about it, but once school vacation began, I kept running into kids at Giant or the pool or the doctor’s office. That happens in a small town.  ”How’s that novel comin,’ Mrs. Sawyer?”

They’d called my bluff.  So now I’m supposed to write a novel?  Hmm . . .  Why not?  Why not write a novel?  How hard can it be?  Poetry— I could write.  And with some success.  Not Pushcart Magazine success—  but enough to give me confidence that others like what and how I write.

Write what you have a passion about, was the adage I remembered from grad class.  Well, had to be a lot of passion if I was  going to write a 400 page novel.  When in my life was there a lot of passion?  Of course— the years 1967-1970!  Turbulent, quasi-insane era, but definitely enough passion for a novel—  and then some.

How many novels by Vietnam Waiting Wives are already out there?  Is the market saturated?  I researched Google and Amazon. Couldn’t find anyone who wrote about her military experiences back then.  Wow, after all these years, there aren’t books about it?

I bought my first ream of paper and started.  Before finishing the second ream, one book about a Waiting Wife’s experience popped up on Amazon! NO!  Why now? Over 40 years, nothing much out there until I started my story.  Quitting was not an option. I had become passionate and committed.  Took a deep breath, trusted the other wife’s story was not mine, and her style of writing wasn’t mine.  (They weren’t, but I wouldn’t read her book until I finished writing my novel.)

At first I wasn’t sure for whom I was writing Prelude.  Our children and grandchildren?  So they’d know what we lived through?  After the first few chapters it became clear. They weren’t my primary audience. The story had stretched beyond family. When did that happen—  and how?  It seemed as if I was now writing for Waiting Wives.  I was fine with that.  Onward I wrote until I finished Chapter 10. Then something changed again.  I felt my audience change.

Do I go back to page 1, trim, edit—  make the Waiting Wives  my audience?  No.  I decided to see what would happen, so I continued telling the story, not looking back, not defining the audience. (not recommended by writers.)  I’d end one chapter, and the next time I’d sit down at the computer, continue as if I’d never left.  But the day I finished Chapter 10, the story line headed somewhere else. I knew I was to follow. Then— I knew where I had to go.  Vietnam.  (Figuratively, of course.)  And I knew who had to take me there, my husband.

What to write was always clear.  Never any writer’s block.  Almost easy— except the writing through emotions.  I became anxious when I discovered my feelings about that era were varicose veins barely beneath the surface of my skin—  gnarled and painful.  Writing became haunting on so many levels.  Still in control, I knew what I was doing.  Just not sure where I was going. The entire process kept surprising me.

“We have to talk.” I told my husband.  “I want to know everything between these envelopes”   I held up the large stack of letters he’d written me from Vietnam.  His reaction?  Another story for another blog entry.

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