I’ve made another decision regarding Portrait of a Girl Running. I have to admit that I have had mixed feelings about publishing this novel and its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé. Don’t get me wrong, I love these stories. In fact, I wrote Girl Running for my husband nearly seven years ago and it has always been my favorite. Consequently, there is a lot of me in these two stories, much more so than in Uncharted and Spilled Coffee, which are written in first person from a thirty-something male point of view. I’ve thought a lot about why I choose to deliver a story in that fashion, and I think it comes down to vulnerability. To write in a point of view so completely opposite who I am—a fifty-three-year-old woman—is sort of an emotional cloak, a way to protect my “identity.”
When I submitted these stories to my publisher, they turned them down because both stories push societal boundaries. That made me all the more squeamish about publishing them—in fact, I wasn’t sure if I would. But, in my biased, authorly opinion, they are really good stories. I didn’t want them to end up little better than a painting sitting in a portfolio, unseen and unappreciated after all the hard work that when into them. But publishing them means vulnerability—much more so than with my other novels.
So, I thought I’d try to apply a story within a story to Girl Running, as I had with my other novels. I had a really cool idea and went with it. I sent it out to a few readers and received mixed responses. Ultimately, I have come to realize that with my other stories within stories, the “shell” story was intrinsic to the overall plot and enhanced the story within. With this attempt—the shell around Girl Running—I did not succeed. The shell only dilutes Girl Running and distracts my reader from the perfectly good story that Girl Running already is as a standalone story. Indeed, I have come to realize that the shell, which I named The Step-Up Man was actually a way for me to work through my feelings about publishing Girl Running, a way of emotionally distancing myself from the stories, a buffer of sorts.
With the help of several astute and supportive reader/writers, I killed my little darling. I am now brave enough to present Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé straight up, no dilution required. And I feel really good—no, eager—to publish them once and for all.