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Back to My Roots for the Next Four Months

Posted Mar 29 2014 3:26pm
So there's this persistent root in my garden. Some kind of burdock or something, I think. Huge taproot. Big leaves. Spreads like mad. Nothing kills the thing. It's everywhere right now. Other years, I've hacked away at it, but this year I've been putting it off. Feeling some strange attraction toward it. Wondering about it. If it's perhaps a message of some sort. A sign on the journey I've learned to trust.

And so today, after I got the news that I wasn't going to be traipsing around organic wineries and calling it work , I head out to work on my roots.  

And that's when it hit me. 

My roots.

My roots.

These darn roots have been telling me not to ignore my roots, as a writer.

I went back inside and dug through a forgotten drawer. There it all was. The bag of poems, from when I was a teenager, including a poem written on my 19th birthday and a letter written to myself on my 15th birthday, both the next ages my daughters will be turning. I used to write on any scrap of paper I could find. Typing paper. The backs of homework and sides of newspaper ads. Torn edges of paper bags. I even wrote a poem titled "Freedom" on the back of an old order form while standing in the drive-through when I used to work at McDonald's. You couldn't have kept me from writing if you tried.

And then I found the manuscripts. After I moved on from poetry in my late 20s, I wrote fiction every single morning at 4 A.M. (that's still my favorite time to write) for at least the next ten years, resulting in three full-length fiction manuscripts. I was represented by an agent, and got close to a sale several times, the closest of which was when I received a five-page letter from an editor at Knopf asking for some specific enhancements to a few of the supporting characters in a young adult manuscript of mine that she said she loved.

I never did them. I had two young children, a house, a husband, a full-time business, and not an iota of mindshare left to entertain anything that started with the word "revise." Ten years have now passed.

It's time. It's time to not be juggling a bunch of things at once, but instead to be focusing fully on the art of my writing. Yes, I know the publishing business is in the toilet, and the hope of ever "making it" is slim to none. Yes, I know that that particular editor has most likely moved on, or wouldn't remember me anyway. But that doesn't mean that at least one time in my life I shouldn't truly give it all I've got. And I have been given the glorious gift of time to do so right now.

And so, I'm taking it. I'm not going to apply for the Art on the BeltLine grant  (I do hope someone else applies with an edible art exhibit idea). I'm not going to write some company's corporate case studies or marketing brochure. I'm not going to spend hours researching and writing about other people's news right now, no matter how much I'm already busting about two big stories I'd love to tell (one about a new film by my favorite filmmakers, and another about a farmer who just accepted a huge opportunity). I'm not going to get distracted this time.

Writing fiction is a solitary, lonely experience, filled with dashed dreams and shattered egos. It's not something you wish on someone. But it is a persistent root that will not go away.

I am therefore taking a writing sabbatical from this blog and from many other things* from April 1-August 1. I will see you on the other side.

* I will still be finishing up Around Atlanta in 180 Days , Guy from Disturbia will still make some appearances @pattiebaker on Twitter , and I do still intend to write the blog for Nicholas House , if that works out, and finish out the "Awakening" living edible art exhibit at WonderRoot . Plus, I have one daughter going to Nashville and the other going to Beijing, so there's stuff to do to help with that. And no, you won't be able to keep me away from Belty or out of my home garden , and I'm not quite done with the Urban Links upcycled bike chain bracelets yet . . .  So, yeah, it's not all "It was a dark and stormy night" or reading drafts in the hammock. But way more than there would have been. And I'm really excited to see where this takes me next. Thank you for joining me through so many changes over the past eight years here on our shared FoodShed Planet!
eclectic food-for-thought for a changing world
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