Thank You, Dear Readers

by

I really had no intentions of posting my entire book online via my blog.  And yet, there it is.  Five years later, I’m published.  On my own blog.  I expect about twenty, maybe twenty-five people are going to read it.

You guys blow my mind.  Thank you.  Thank you to all my friends who encouraged me to keep posting, who said they wanted to read more.  Thank you to people who have come up to me in the grocery store and told me that they read my blog.  Thank you to friends I haven’t seen since high school who said they were eagerly wanting more.  Really?

Thank you to every freaking one of you, you really blow my mind and break my heart.  In the best possible way.  You helped me let go of my own stupid restrictions and expectations.  Somewhere in my ill-conceived brain I felt like the only way to be a successful writer was to be published by some big fancy publishing house and toured around the nation and the world.  To have book signings and contracts and movie deals.

Fact is, I doubt very much if any of those things would make me feel as grateful and blessed as I do to the handful of you that have been reading my story.

And it is my story.  Just a little snippet from my life.  There are further adventures.  I wrote two follow-up pieces–The Iowa Waltz and Fatherless Madison (originally titled Sins of the Father, but I discovered that there was a movie out there somewhere with that same title.  I’ve changed the title to the third book three times now.  Fatherless Madison is a working title and still doesn’t sound quite right.).  Both books are in first draft form.

I wrote all the books approximately five years ago.  I took a memoir writing class taught by Alan Kaufman.  It started with twelve of us and eventually dwindled down to this unique, mystifying, electric, and über eclectic group of people.  None of whom I have any more contact with.  Terese Taylor, noted local musician and muse, was my writing partner.  Then there was Lauren Volper, Bill Wright, and Kristen Kadner.  We called ourselves the Thursday Group and we met for about nine months in Alan’s living room and drank tea and wrote our hearts out.

The class was only meant to be three months long.  I got to be in it for an extraordinary nine months of my life.  Nine months where my pen was so hot and I was so wrapped up in the writing.  I would sit down in a coffee shop after work, I was a CSR (customer service representative) at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists.  I would get done with work and depending on the day of the week and where I was expected to be later that evening, would rotate the around the coffee shops in the Mission doing my writing.  I did all of the first drafts in long hand.

I remember the first time I wrote the chapter that opens the book, Habit, I had a complete and utter out-of-body experience.  I was breaking out into a cold sweat in the Philz on Folsom and 24th.  I was there.  I was in the hooch.  I was inhaling the crack.  I was there.  Overwhelmed, I stumbled outside and made a few phone calls.

It was not the first chapter that I wrote.  It was the fourth, perhaps the fifth.  I remember so distinctly when I read it to the class that following Thursday.  How everyone fell silent.  And Kaufman said, that’ s your opening chapter.  Dump the rest.

Fuck you.

I did not want to let go of the previous four, and ultimately in the end, I did keep two of the four chapters, but repositioned them and heavily edited them to get them to work.  I had never intended to write a memoir.  I had never intended to write about being homeless, smoking crack, being in an abusive relationship.

And yet, here I was doing just that.  It took me five years to plow through this enough to get it to this blog.  Again, I had very distinct ideas and plans about how the publishing of my book was going to be done.

This was not how it was going to be done, fyi.

After I wrote Baby Girl Kaufman said to keep writing, my pen was hot.  So I did.  I completed the first draft of The Iowa Waltz in the same amount of time as I did Baby Girl, then the pen was smoking and I did Fatherless Madison.  And then the pen was on fire and I started The House in Windsor, the prequel to the trilogy.  Which in my mind I called the Tricycle Trilogy.  After a picture of myself as a little girl approximately twenty-two months old, riding a tricycle in San Jose, CA on the property of my grandparents.

My mother had just come home from the hospital with my sister.  I was irate.  Although you certainly can’t tell from the picture.  I have a very focused, determined look on my face.  My mom told me that I was mad and would not talk to her.  I don’t know if that was when the abuse started with my grandfather, but I suspect maybe.

Just a note on that.  I have no recollection beyond the flash backs of that part of my life.  I may never.  And I’m ok with that.  Loads of therapy, some of it “self-medicating” and lots of “outside help” have given me a lot of relief.  This is neither the time or the place to delve into that.  Suffice to say I did have a number of trepidations about the writing and I used them as an excuse for a long time to not move forward with the book.

The manuscript lay around for a long time not going anywhere.  I remember writing the last line of the book and calling my best friend from back home, Stephi, and telling her and crying on her voice mail.  I started writing The Iowa Waltz a week later.  At the same time I started in on the second draft of Baby Girl.

Then I let it sit for a year.  I was done.  I couldn’t look at it any more.  The writing group had disintegrated and I felt lost, alone, bereft.  One day I picked up the manuscript and started back in.  Then I let it sit for another year.  Then I got in too much pain and picked it back up.  Four drafts later, and I was beginning to feel like the damn thing would never be done and I hated the piece and wanted to throw the whole thing out.

Instead I printed off a copy and began to go back over it, chapter, by chapter, one page at a time for fifteen minutes once a week.  That was all I could commit to.  By doing that I wrote a fifth, and I hoped the final draft.  I was now involved with a number of people meeting weekly on Wednesday’s at the Muddy Waters on Valencia and 24th, we were doing the Artist Way–Molly Daniels, Jennifer Sands, Matt Williams, Ian Murphy, Kap Seidel, Johnny Carroll, (and a tipping of the hat to Zefrey Throwell who made the original suggestion to me that I try doing the Artist Way) these people, along with a rotating cast of other writers and artists, Dahlia, Jen, Calvin, Jano, Mike, Mack, all who held my hand as I did the work necessary to complete the last draft.

Then I gave it to Molly who read it with a sweet eye and gave me some suggestions.  Then I gave it to Robert.  Next to Kate Seward.  The three made basically the same suggestions.  It needed to not be so terrifically sad and depressing, there had to be relief for the reader, regardless of whether or not Baby Girl actually had gotten any.  And it needed to be better framed.

Ugh. Gah.  I was so done with it.  Then I moved up here to Nob Hill a year and a half ago and made the decision last Christmas that I was going to get myself a freaking laptop, preferably a MAC, and I would finish the edits and re-writes to the book.  I got about half way there and stalled out again, around chapter ten, eleven.

Enter the post a day challenge.  Why I decided to take this on I do not know, but why is not a question that I encourage myself to ask.  I just did it.  I think I was hoping that the practise of doing the writing would help me finish the book.  I never dreamed about putting the book on my blog.  And I did actually get together the courage to send it out, the first three chapters anyway, to an agent, who of course, said no thanks.

Then it sat some more.  Until I had a talk with the gentleman with tawny eyes over tea in the beginning of April.  I had nudged the manuscript which was sitting under a pile of other more “important” projects, and stated to him, “you should never ask me about writing, I’ll talk your ear off.”

He laughed and asked what was stopping me from getting my book out there.  And for the first time I really saw that I had to own up to the fear.  Right then, right there.  And I said, “fear.”

Saying it out loud caused something shifted.  Although I did not realize it until a few days later when I was too tired to think straight and just wanted to post my post a day and go the hell to bed.  Mr. Eyes sent me a text message and that was that.  I opened up the file with my book and copied the first chapter, then I pulled up my blog, pressed “new post” and pasted it in.

And voila.

There’s more story to the story.  But it’s irrelevant.  I’m officially declaring myself a published writer of a book–Baby Girl–the life and times of a nineteen year old homeless crack addicted girl, her true love Elliot, their dog Layla, her boyfriend Billy, and their mis-adventures there of on The Lake in Homestead, Florida; written by one Carmen Regina Martines.

Post Script.  This book is dedicated to the memory of Aaron Shadrach Wingate, my best friend, I carry you in my heart forever and only wish you could be here to see this moment.  Without you the book would never be have been written in the first place.

“Hey, Martines.  I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t you just pay for the class, not show up, and when you’re sucking dick for crack on Capp St.  you can just beat yourself up and say, ‘why didn’t i just take that writing class with Alan Kaufman’.”

                                                            -Shadrach Wingate

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