Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I didn’t say last night

Last night, I gave the first reading from my new novel, The Honeylicker Angel. The room was filled with dear friends and new faces. I told of the three things that formed the genesis of the book:

  • Seeing a photo of a man covered in bees, smiling with his mouth open—bees along his lips.
  • Filling water bottles with Spanish wine from barrels while hearing a story of the last barge beekeepers on a French canal.
  • Spending a Swiss winter in a theological commune studying fear and love.

Photo, barge, transformed fear.

That part I said. What I didn’t say was this: for the reading, I was wearing the dress the novel had been “conceived” in. It was a dress I bought ten years ago in Switzerland, during that winter study—the timeless kind of dress that doesn’t find its way into the Goodwill bag.

It was also the dress I wore when I met my own Mr. Once—slight inspiration for the novel’s version of him. It was the dress I dyed the color of chocolate six years ago and took to Micronesia for my first teaching job—a job I took to conquer my fear of public speaking (nothing like a room full of senior high students to kill that fear fast!). It was the dress I dyed again last week, navy blue this time, to wear for the reading. That dress—that uniform of beginnings—needed its own ending.

I see myself in that dress back when it was pale and new like me, filling a bottle with Muscatel on a hot, Spanish afternoon, hearing a story of beekeepers and beginning to form a story of my own: of a woman who spins her fear to love like I was just learning to do.

I gave birth to my character Melissa in that dress—my first book child. I wish her well as she grows up and moves about in the world. If you see her, snug between the covers of The Honeylicker Angel, I hope you’ll spend some time with her and enjoy her story.