On the Second Day of The Reverse Commute: From Radiation to Publication
It was just a little over a year ago that I began writing the story that would become The Reverse Commute. The story had been developing since the summer and it unfolded like a movie in my mind during my forty-five minute commute to work along with a soundtrack provided by the eclectic selection of music I heard on 92.5 The River. So many songs seemed to fit my story, from Springsteen’s, Tunnel of Love to Phish’s, Bouncing Around the Room, and The Dirty Head’s, Stand Tall.
In early November 2011, we visited my friend Sandy in Delray Beach, Florida. One evening after many cocktails and making her watch the movie Blue Valentine with me, I told her my idea for a screenplay.
The first words out of her mouth were “this is a home run, start writing. Just puke it out. Don’t edit yourself, don’t fix anything, just keep puking it out and when you get it all down then we’ll clean it up.”
I went home to another New Hampshire winter and Sandy was diagnosed with a tumor in her salivary glands. Sandy had surgery on her neck to remove the tumor and started a grueling round of radiation. She was exhausted and didn’t have the energy to read anything I sent her. Bored in my cubicle and feverish with ideas, I kept writing.
In late April, we met again in Miami. Sandy was done with radiation and I had an almost finished screenplay in my suitcase. Something seemed to be missing but Sandy told me to keep writing. “We will get there,” she told me. Her optimism buoyed my spirits.
Back at home, I decided to try writing a short story. It would be similar to the screenplay but from a new and different character’s point of view. When the story was finished, a lightening bolt struck me. The screenplay had become a novel and The Best Boy had entered the story. I spent the summer writing. My family was aggravated with me for spending so much time at my computer. They did have a point. I already spent forty hours a week at a computer crunching numbers. But this was my salvation. I was writing my way out of my cubicle. I had to tell my story.
Still not feeling well, Sandy was having trouble eating. Her mouth and jaw ached and it was a slow road back to recovery. I was at the point where I needed someone to read my story. I had to know if it was any good or not. My sister Maureen and two good friends, Liz and Mary Jane, stepped in. They read several early drafts and offered constructive criticism. It was summertime and Maureen is a teacher so was available to spend hours on the phone with me. She was my biggest advocate.
By late July, Sandy was back on her feet and asked for a copy of the book. She read it and was stunned. “What have you been doing since I got sick? How did you do this?”
I started sending query letters to publishers, a daunting task with something like a one percent chance of ever getting published. Sandy snapped into action and we decided to self-publish. She did all the nitty-gritty work – finding out how to get on Amazon, setting up my blog, getting the book on Kindle and Nook. The hardest part was the printed version. We needed not only a front cover but a back one as well. The formatting was different. She was tireless, working sometimes at three in the morning and getting the job done.
As Sandy likes to say, we had gone from radiation to publication in a little under a year. By Halloween, the book was published. It is amazing what two good friends can do when they put their minds to it.
I have known Sandy for twenty-five years. We met while working for a public accountant in Boston shortly after I graduated from college. It was the eighties. We were young and single, living in the city, and having the time of our lives. Our boss also owned several restaurants where we drank and ate for free. We went to clubs with names like Spit and The Rat. The soundtrack of my life back then was The Clash and Elvis Costello.
Time inevitably moved on, as it always does. Sandy moved to San Francisco, I moved to New Hampshire with my boyfriend who was soon to become my husband. We eloped to Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies and Sandy was one of the eleven people who made the trek to join us at our wedding.
Several years later, she moved back to Philadelphia. I had two children and she married Michael who had four kids. We started seeing each other more. My summer vacations were spent attending lacrosse tournaments in the mid-Atlantic with my oldest daughter so we visited Sandy in Philadelphia or at beach houses she rented on Long Beach Island. Our kids were close in age. Our husbands got along. We picked up right where we left off so many years ago.
As I get ready to pack up my house and move to Florida, I will be leaving behind so many friends. But when I think about the story I share with my friend Sandy and our road from radiation to publication, I know my friends will always be there. They are a phone call away. There’s email and Facebook and cheap Southwest flights. We will meet again and we will meet often and when we pour that glass of wine and put our feet up by a Florida pool or a New England fire, we will pick up right where we left off.