When New York said no, I put the manuscript in a box and went on to something else. When I thought of the story at all, it was only to remember the flaws. The novel is called All the Home I Have, the title taken from a poem by W.E. Aytoun.
The earth is all the home I have,
The heavens my wide roof-tree.
It’s a novel set in Ten Mile Creek, Oregon in the 1980s. It’s about the forest and logging. It’s about community, the meaning of home and our responsibility to place. New York complained that I had set the story in the 1980s when clearly, from the way people lived, it should have been the 1960s. Obviously, they had never been to Oregon.
I would mention the manuscript sometimes in talks, as an example of how not to begin a novel. If you begin a novel with a point to prove, I’d say, then your allegiance is to that point and not to the story. Do not set out to teach a lesson, I’d say. Who wants to hear it? Your values, the things you think are important, find their way into your stories. They are inherent to storytelling. When it comes to writing, I almost never give advice, but I would say these things sometimes.
I’m writing a nonfiction book about Ten Mile Creek and, thinking I might find something in that old manuscript to use, for the past two days I’ve been reading it again, after all these years. It is not the floundering, moralistic, sentimental, cliché-ridden mess I had recalled. No! It’s good. It’s funny and quirky and thoughtful and honest. Reading the manuscript again, I feel like a traitor. I believed the publishers, instead of myself.