In early June, I attended the annual New Jersey SCBWI conference, and met an agent who had read the first chapter of my Novel #3, and declared herself "besotted" with it. She wanted to see the full manuscript ASAP. I got nervous, asked for two weeks to get it in top form, and at the end of those two weeks, sent it off to her. She very quickly, but very kindly and thoughtfully, rejected it, based on her objections to a plotline that she felt did not work. Since she wasn't the first person in the publishing biz who had felt that same way - in fact, she was the third, but I had refused to listen before - I decided that it was time for me to bite the bullet, and amputate. I asked her whether she would be willing to see a revised version after the bloodletting, and she said she'd be happy to, any time. From mid-June to mid-November, I excised 95% of the offending plotline, decided to keep the remaining 5%, and filled in the holes with an entirely new storyline. If that sounds easy, trust me. It wasn't. The agent was right. The book became much stronger and richer. On November 15th, with visions of the Newbery Award dancing in my head, I sent it back to her. She hasn't responded. After the holidays, I'm going to send her a gentle nudge, because if she doesn't want the book, I need to move on and try elsewhere.
Which brings me to the holidays. Not directly, of course, but since I now have this forum to write about whatever is roiling around in my mind, I'm going to take advantage of it. So. This past Thursday night, I sequentially gave identical Christmas gifts to two women of whom I think very highly. The gifts were painted glass ornaments, very beautiful, depicting a mother and baby. BOTH of the recipients, independently, patiently advised me, as if they were imparting some arcane bit of Christian lore, that the two people painted on the ornament were not just some generic mother and child, but in fact, the Madonna and the Baby Jesus. No way! Okay, I'm Jewish. I was born that way, and have so remained. But do they really think that the fact that I have never celebrated Christmas - including the years that I was married to a Christian - means that I have never noticed it?? That my acquaintance with the meaning of Christmas began and ended with Santa and his reindeer? That I thought that when George Harrison sang of Mother Mary coming to him, speaking words of wisdom, he was singing about his own Mum flying in from Liverpool? I'll admit that I was a little hazy about the details of the Annunciation, but last year I asked my friend Yvette about it, and she filled me in. I have not spend my 56 years under a rock (I was going to say, in a cave, but I actually know about the cave thing too, and I don't want to be disrespectful). Yes, Virginia, Christianity is the dominant culture in America, and I'd bet a lot of money that there are more Christians, proportionately speaking, that have never heard of the Maccabbees or of the razing of the Jerusalem Temple in Roman times, than there are Jews who never heard that there was no room at the inn and that the Star of Bethlehem led the three wise men to a stable were Jesus lay in a manger. I am, personally, very fond of the Christmas story. Do I believe in its literal truth? No. But neither do I believe that the world was created fifty-seven-hundred-and-something years ago, or that Moses climbed a mountain and was swept up from the top of it into Heaven to receive the Ten Commandments. I'm Jewish both by birth and by choice, but I'm not going to quarrel with anyone's sincere desire to improve the world, by whatever name they choose to call it. My 15-year-old daughter has asked me twice within the past year, both times out of the blue, whether I believe in God. Caught on short notice, both times I answered that I'm not sure. If I'd had more time to think, I might have said: I believe in charity, love, and redemption. If you want to call those concepts God, then yes, I do.
And that concludes my rant for today. Thanks for listening. And, if any celebrants happen to be reading this, I wish them a joyous - wait - it's on the tip of my tongue - I've got it! Christmas.