I’ve always been a What-if asker.
It began way back. I was a pretty good kid and straight arrow student, but in my off hours, of which there were plenty since this was before the age of cable TV and internet (at least in my tiny town), I wondered…
What if I became a famous movie star and had to have a private tutor follow me everywhere and all the other kids wanted to be my friend?
What if I was convicted of a crime I didn’t commit and had to go to jail for life because of a conspiracy set in motion by the real me who was actually swapped at birth?
What if a great aunt I never met, died and left me ten million dollars because my mom sent her a picture of me when I was five and she liked my freckles and cat eye glasses?
I ran through these scenarios while riding the bus, raking the endless leaves that fell on my father’s imaginary lawn surrounding our house in the forest, or sweating it out on the other side of the fence while my parents played tennis on the public courts.
Stories spun through my head on an endless loop. As I grew older and began to pay attention to people other than myself, I wondered about their stories. Waiting in the orthodontist’s office, I studied the other teenagers. What if I had acne like that? What if I was as cool as her? What if my mom was mean like that woman?
I got a job as a hot walker at the nearby Delaware Park racetrack, and spent my mornings making lap after lap around the shedrow cooling down horses. There was plenty of time to wonder and plenty of people to wonder about at the track. Most track workers lived in the shacks next to the manure pits, with no heat, no A/C, piled in on top of each other. What if my family died in a house fire and I had to live in one of those houses? Short Hispanic men smoked and made eyes at me, but could barely speak English. Exercise riders too big to be jocks and jocks so tiny they only came up to my chest and made me self-conscious, but they also made me wonder about their lives. What if I married one of them? There were also rich owners who showed up on race day with an entourage of wealth following them daintily through the muddy backside. What if I married one of them? Maybe I’d only be a mistress….
Wondering What-if as an adult has gotten me grief at PTO meetings, volunteered for political campaigns, and a third child who rendered us outnumbered. Asking what if when my youngest child developed an autoimmune disorder led to a healthier lifestyle. It resulted in chickens in our backyard, a breadmaker on my counter, and a lemon tree on my porch (that we have to drag inside every winter).
I can’t help but imagine the lives of the strangers I encounter on a daily basis, impatiently loading the check-out belt in front of me at Tractor Supply or flipping us off when I accompany my son driving on the interstate for the first time. Who are these people? What makes them so grumpy/impatient/mean/funny looking? What if I was one of them?
I’m still asking what if. What if people stopped being so mean and judgmental and self-righteous and learned to be kind? What if people were more open-minded and cut each other some slack? What if I wrote a story about walking in someone else’s shoes and it became a best seller? It could happen. What if it did?
Oh, The Craziness
Crazy things happened this week, not the least of which is that MY BOOK WAS PUBLISHED! After way too many years trying to be a novelist (as opposed to a writer who writes whatever she is told to write for money), this week I officially became a novelist. Thanks to The Story Plant and specifically my editor and publisher, Lou Aronica, it finally happened. I wrote about the hows and whys of that journey on The Story Plant/Authors First blog.
The next crazy thing that happened is that people read my book! They didn’t just buy it because they knew me and they were trying to be nice. Total strangers bought my book for money and then read it! Crazy.
But then it got crazier because some of these total strangers wrote to me! Amazingly thoughtful and interested human beings clicked on my website, found my email and sent me a note to say they liked my book and/or tell me how it affected them. Blows me away.
The thought that there are people out there reading my book RIGHT NOW is distracting. I catch myself marveling over the craziness of it and forget what I’m doing. Today when I was headed to my friend’s house to pick her up for our marketing, I completely forgot I was picking her up and got on the highway headed up to the market without her. I realized my mistake, but had to drive four miles to the next exit to turn around and go back for her. Probably I shouldn’t be driving.
And then more craziness! Apple ibooks put I’m Not Her on their Best New Fiction list. Swoon. More distracted living – forgetting to brush teeth (or brushing them for nearly ten minutes before realizing I should stop), and then forgetting to let horses out until two hours past their normal time resulting in really dirty stalls to muck the next day and horse nearly trampling me on their way to the pasture.
But then Kobo books listed I’m Not Her on their Pageturner List and I simply had to open a bottle of wine and wonder about all this. Which led to me eating WAY too many stale Cheezits the kids had left behind.
Thankfully, the weekend was quiet and I filled it with weeding and pickling and watching my daughter perform the role of the witch in a community production of Into The Woods. (She was so amazing I actually forgot about the fact that I’M A PUBLISHED NOVELIST ON THE IBOOKS AND KOBO lists for a few hours.)
Yesterday morning I went to my keyboard all set to do some work finally, but an email popped up from Lou. I’m Not Her had made the ibooks Top 100 Bestselling Fiction and Literature List! OMG. It’s only been out six days.
So much for this week…..let’s hope I don’t walk into a wall or something.
#ImNotHer #CaraSueAchterberg #newfiction #womensfiction #cantputdownbooks