Several months ago I wrote a piece entitled "It's Hard to Get
Published," in which I complained about three books I had completed
and which failed to find publishers. Well, my fears have been relieved
somewhat by the people at Viking, who have agreed to publish my
next Agatha McMGee novel, The Staggerford Flood in October of 2002.

So I have turned my attention back to writing, where it belongs,
and find myself approaching the end of two novels with great
difficulty. The first is a novelization of my play The Staggerford
, in which George Bauer is the murderer of his wife Blanche
and was, earlier, an accomplice in another murder, of Blanche's
husband Neddy Nichols. But all this happened nine years ago and the
only person who witnessed his dirty dealings is a garbage man named
Dusty, and Dusty has died-- but not before telling what he knows to
his two friends, an old man named Grover and a young preacher
named Ollie. Ollie and Grover, by shading the truth somewhat, and
with the help of Blanche's daughter Penny Jean Nichols, convince the
sheriff that George Bauer ought to go to trial, but for the murder of
Blanche's husband rather than Blanche herself, because it will be
easier to prove. The play ends before George Bauer comes to trial,
when Ollie and Grover run off to Florida rather than testify. Grover 
is too shy to get up on the witness stand and Ollie, an itinerant
clergyman, doesn't want to tell a lie under oath.

Judging by audience reaction, this ending seemed to work on
the stage, but it doesn't work in a book, where the reader has time 
to ponder and analyze and wants to know how the trial comes out. So in
the book Grover becomes the main character, and we follow him to
Florida where he has moved into a condo on the beach with his
well-to-do and widowed sister. He follows the trial in the Staggerford
Weekly and learns that George Bauer (who lives in the Nichols's
palatial house) is acquitted, but that Penny Jean has accused him in a
civil trial of taking her property. Grover returns to Minnesota to
testify in Penny Jean's behalf, and he, a confirmed bachelor in his
seventies, is pursued by an old widow who's sweet on him . And on
and on . . .

So you see why I say endings are hard.

The second work is a young adult novel entitled Our Seventh
, about Claire Sims, the seventeen-year-old daughter of
divorced parents who comes to Minneapolis to spend the summer with
her father, a famous painter named Samuel Sims. This is the
summer that Samuel falls in love with a young woman named Ricki,
who not only steals his heart but plans, with the help of a thief named
Jake, to steal several of his paintings as well. I have just finished 
the chapter of the robbery during which Samuel saves his paintings, but
Ricki and Jake escape. If I were a different kind of novelist, I'd 
have the thieves caught and put in jail and I'd be done with it. But as 
an agent told me one time, I never take the easy way out. Now Claire
(and I) are faced with a new problem--her father's depression over
losing Ricki--and it's slow going.



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Last modified: May 05, 2002