VICKI MARIE STOLSEN AT FORUM RESTAURANT
I heard that magical line for the first time in Buenos Aires, and then in Cartagena, Medellin, Oakland and once again last night in Sebastopol in the living room salon organized by my childhood friend, Kristy. I’ve been reading The Bachelor Chapters to small groups in both public and private spaces and my take away after each event is consistent:
I am encouraged.
My audiences have included local college students in Buenos Aires and Medellin; international ex-pats that have landed in Cartagena; high school teachers from the East Bay; and the mélange of disparate individuals who inhabit the California landscapes of wine country.
These future readers are both men and women; they range in age from twenty-something’s to sixty-something’s: many are strangers to me, while others are close friends. In the public readings, I’ve been thrilled by the response from the folks unknown to me—the people who cross the room to express their enthusiasm for the story from the unheard of author who comments unabashedly about the power of a woman’s pussy. “I want to read your book,” they tell me, before describing the specific passage or over-arching theme that snagged their attention and makes them want more.
The private readings are always followed by a group conversation, where the informal scene has been charged by the performance of a story spoken out loud. I have presented enough times now to start tracking responses: “universal,” “authentic,” “comic,” “sexy,” and “succinct,” have been repeated again and again. This encourages me about the future success of the title, and it also affirms my craft as a writer. With guidance from Stacey Donovan, my editor, I learned how to shape the ambition of the original manuscript into a ubiquitous story that would seize the reader’s attention by virtue of its familiar quest.
As a memoir, the book extracts scenes from my life; but what makes it worth reading is the discovery that this tale reweaves another narrative of our humanity. Infused with commentary about sex, love, adultery, men, women, race, gay identity, body image, and aging, at the end of the day, The Bachelor Chapters is both a coming of age story, and a coming to grips story. It’s about us, and I can’t wait for you to read it. Vicki Marie at the Loring Cafe in Oakland
My job is to weave the tale toward a universal truth—to give the reader a reason to turn the page: a reason to care. Many months ago, the memoir I call “The Bachelor Chapters” quit being about my story, and instead, became a story. That was my plan, and after eighteen months, thousands of words, and as many decisions—I’m calling it “done.”
I’m releasing the book in January 2014—but I celebrated the final manuscript last Wednesday with a reading at Eco-Bar, in the mountain city of Medellin, Colombia. This place is one of my home’s—a place where I live and write—but only for two or three months at a time. Like Cartagena, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires, in Medellin I have a small and growing community of locals and ex-pat’s: as well as service provider’s and neighbor’s, dance teachers and bartenders. No matter where I live, I always have bartenders. And I always have dance teachers.
The audience on Wednesday night represented a keen reality of my global lifestyle—I have many young friends in my community—and I mean twenty-something young. These adults were born between the early nineteen eighties and nineties—the years I was the age that they are now.
|A crowd of locals and a few ex-pats listen as Vicki Marie reads “The Bachelor Chapters” at Eco-Bar in Medellin, Colombia|
So when I picked up the microphone last week, before I was welcomed by a few dozen polite listener’s, I took note that there was not a single person born before 1980 in my audience; and three quarter’s of them were natives of Medellin—a city and a country very different from my own.
The story I tell in “The Bachelor Chapters” features a forty-something year old woman, who decides to change the game on romance and love, in a thoughtful and deliberate way. This is a story I could not have written before now, because it depends on wisdom and life experience and reflection culled from more than fifty years of birthdays.
Reading a book out loud is very different than acting, which I had done long ago. Because I don’t memorize the text, because I have to keep my eyes on the pages, I have little interaction with the audience. There is the occasional glance into the crowd to emphasize a point or a good line—but the experience is essentially a one-way performance. I have no idea during the thirty minutes of airtime if my audience is engaged, bored, or merely exercising good manners.
I had great doubts that the mixed crowd of young men and women would relate to the story, or be persuaded to pay attention to the fruits of my labor. Their lives are so different than mine—I am the age of their parents—and we all know the decade of the twenties is when we break childhood bonds, and exercise adulthood. Parents lose relevance, at least for a while. It’s just the way it works; it’s what has to happen.
|Vicki Marie reads “The Bachelor Chapters” at Eco-Bar in Medellin, Colombia|
So, it is with shock and awe that I report that “The Bachelor Chapters”—the story that is bigger than my life—captivated and inspired young adults in a way I never could have imagined. Women and men—yes, men—came to me afterwards, and told me they wanted to read my book. The enthusiasm and appreciation gave me the miracle of affirmation and the sweet scent of success. I did it. I hooked readers. I transcended self. I tapped into human relevance. I wrote a good story.
|Celebrating a successful reading of “The Bachelor Chapters” by mounting a stump: a Vicki Marie tradition that usually involves a chair|
in the revised edition of The Bachelor Chapters, and yesterday, I read every one. Out loud—and to myself. I know now that it takes nine hours to read 88,642 words. My mouth was dry and my spirits were high. The book sounds good.
I added 16,703 words to this edition—started in the mountains of Medellin on February 19th, and finished yesterday, on the coast in Cartagena. I also deleted distracting scenes, re-sequenced several chapters, conflated a few characters, and gave birth to a few more. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. My job is to lead you to turn the page: again, then again, because you can’t wait to discover what happens next. I know there are other places you could be. My work moves to art when I’ve designed a world where you have no desire but to stay.
On Tuesday, the manuscript is due. Stacey Donovan, the formidable editor I drafted to edit the first manuscript, will have a second shot. Her sharp commentary and forensic detail guided me to mine deeper, and overturn a few boulders, so I could find the story that takes more risks, reveals more depth, and shines with more heart. If Stacey Donovan needed fresh evidence of her value and expertise, the revised manuscript delivers.
Thank you, Stacey, for challenging The Bachelor Chapters to be the story it could be. And in the process, daring me, to become a better writer. Meet you on the backside.
October 2012. …and I wrap the first draft of my first book. I email the manuscript to Stacey Donovan, my editor in New York, who has already lost power and won’t touch it for days. Meanwhile, in tropical Antigua, Jennifer and I visit the neighbors for a dinner party. I bring the book and present my first reading to an audience that doesn’t know me. I start at the beginning and spill the first three chapters into the warm island air. When I finish, they want more. I am a writer. I’m making it happen. This is my life.
October 2012. ….to Jennifer, the dog mom, and my friend of forty years. We take four nights to finish. With the final word, we lock eyes and nod our heads. Yes. We are both dazzled. “Definitely a TV series,” she says, “it’s a page-turner, and it grabs, but you, my dear, have created a moving picture.” Another yes. It works. The Bachelor Chapters is a good story. Maybe even an important one. And she agrees when I say, “The hater’s will destroy me, baby. I might as well send a copy to Rush Limbaugh. Let the drama begin!”
May 2012. ….is in my apartment in Barrio Norte. I host a handful of mis chica’s for a private presentation. I pick chapter sixteen, a passage that includes graphic sex, my big ego, and public humiliation. After three months of writing, there are almost thirty thousand words. I am nervous, but optimistic – and I can’t wait to hear what they think. Sí! Ay dios! Dime, por favor! I become an actor, bringing the text to life, as the story rolls off my tongue and into the room. Fifteen minutes later, I look up from the page and into the glow of their unanimous response – “Sí! Vicki Marie! When is the Spanish language edition available?” Subscribe to The Bachelor Blog and never miss a post.