[In today’s guest post the always lovely and ever prolific Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) talks honestly about the choices she made to get where she is…. Her third adult novel, The Truth About Delilah Blue, will be released next Tuesday, June 8, 2010 and The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of the book next Monday, June 7, 2010.
And now, without further ado, here’s Tish.]
During my childhood, not many days passed during which I was without a pencil, a crayon, a magic marker, or a pen. If you’d asked me back then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d likely have replied, “an artist.” Okay, full disclosure, if you’d asked me before age five, I’d have said, “a collie.” And there were a few summers I might have said farmer or figure skater or owner of shiny horses or a ballet dancer with really muscular calves. But mostly I saw my future self as either a cartoonist or an eccentric painter who splashes color across enormous canvases on the floor of her weathered barn—much like Delilah in THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE, my newest novel for adults.
I was a loner of a kid, so books were a huge part of my life, but rather than contemplate writing them (that was for special people), I simply became each heroine and spent my days wishing I was her, then pulled out another sheet of paper and drew Snoopy in yet another position atop his dog house.
The day I knew I was on the wrong track came early and I ignored it. I’d finished a rendition of Snoopy that made me so proud I drew a fancy frame around it in black marker. I sat there, on the floor of my closet, and knew to my toes that what I was good at, art-wise, was not creating art of my own, but copying the work of other artists and taping it to my bedroom walls. As I sat there knowing this, I knew something else. That I was supposed to write a story about what I’d drawn—and THAT was my real path. This I knew much further than my toes. I knew this to the basement. To the ground beneath the basement.
Yet I ignored it. That day and for the next eighteen years.
I did pursue art after a wrong turn for business school, and did wind up with a fairly successful painting business where I painted dusk skies with clouds and swallows in people’s dressing rooms, and frescoes in front entryways. I was reasonably good at what I did, but to become the artist who sold canvases in galleries I would have to be better than reasonably good.
And I wasn’t.
I was working as an editor by this time, and already knew I loved playing with words as much as I loved playing with graphite and plaster and acrylic paint. There was a point where I reached a split in the road. I knew I had to choose. I made a list of the pros and cons of each career and imagined myself at ninety-nine, sitting in my rocker, looking back upon my life. Which life made me happier?
I didn’t know.
It wasn’t until I tried writing fiction for the first time (until that point my writing had been for a third-world development agency, or in the form of autobiographical essays I’d sold to newspapers) that I knew. Fiction not only made me happiest, it came to me more easily than art. It came to me as my own creation, rather than a something that had been done before and I could only replicate. I thought about this as I wrote THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE. Delilah is rabid in her passion for painting, willing to model nude, even, to fund her choice. And even as this decision ruins life as she knows it, it is a thing she must do.
I learned back then the importance of honesty in my choices. It wasn’t until I took a good look at myself that I found a career that liked me back.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.