Today I’m so happy to bring you a guest post, continuing on my recent posts looking at hope. Please enjoy this post by Jeanette Michalets and let her know your reactions at the end. Thanks, Jeanette!
I Feather my Nest with Hope.
By Jeanette Michalets
Birds. Poets. Writers of all genres.
What do these entities have in common? To me they share the element of hope.
Having just completed a nearly final draft of my second novel, Hope is the Thing with Feathers, I was delighted early on a sleepless morning when I clicked on Pam Writes and discovered she had shared Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers,” as well as her own reflections on the meaning of hope.
I have always had a thing for birds and bird imagery, so it wasn’t by accident that I decided to title my novel after Dickinson’s poem. We’re talking about a novel I began in 1996, a manuscript that I am once again polishing and editing. In reality, I had considered the novel complete for a long time; it even made forays into the land of literary agents in the 1990s and returned with the standard, “Sorry not for me,” rejections, as well as a few encouraging letters and suggestions. Ah . . . if only I could have taken those suggestions to heart and made the necessary changes at the time. If only if I could have been more astute at slashing the superfluous, more proficient in reigning in the flowery . . . If only. . .
Still, despite a folder filled with rejection letters and one-line postcards, I never gave up believing in my story, in my characters, in my basic premise. At times, I shake my head (as I’m sure most writers do) and think I must be crazy — a real glutton for punishment. “Are you really starting the process all over again?” I ask myself. Yes, I am. I’m hoping that time and four years of valuable workshop experience have helped me hone my craft— and filled once again with hope — I will begin the process of seeking a literary agent after self-publishing my first novel, The Ten Cent Café.
Like the robins that return to bitter northern climes while snow still lingers on the ground, like the sparrows that build their nests year-after-year despite the threats of cats and hawks, wind and weather, like the caged canary that still thrills to song, I’m not good at giving up. Like my protagonist, Leah — an herbalist who is determined to save her former lover and best friend from an incurable disease — I persevere. I push on.
Truly, I don’t know why some people continue to hope against all odds, while others give up. Why do some folks “keep on trucking” as they used to say, and others give in or give up? Is it faith for some? Friendship for others? Fearlessness for still others?
I had a dear writer friend who took her own life after years of literary rejection. I can’t help but think that had she lived a few years longer until the present days of self-publishing, she might not have given up. There is, perhaps, more to her story than just what she deemed as literary failure, but still remembering all the rejection she suffered saddens me. She used to mail me Christmas cards with white doves on them. I wish I could have sent her my white dove of hope.
As Pam shared, fortunately, for many of us, there exists that little seed of hope that keeps our dreams alive, our deepest desires nurtured. Many of us have experienced more than our share of tragedy, heartache, loss and near defeat, but somehow that little singing bird perched deep within our writer’s soul requires that we pull out our pens or fire up our laptops and begin again. The support of family and friends, particularly the encouragement and mentoring of writer friends, contributes immensely, as well. These wonderful people help us to build and maintain our writer nests; they are the twigs and mud, the scaffolding, as Pam suggests.
At the end of my novel, Leah, my protagonist, has endured a great deal of change, loss, and sadness, but she hasn’t given up hope; just as she is nurtured and healed through her love of birds and nature at the beginning of the novel, she continues to be encouraged at its conclusion:
“She hated to see the day end, loathed the thought of going inside. After lingering a few moments longer, she was about to reach for the doorknob when she heard it—the sweet sound of a robin trilling goodnight and the dee-dee-dee of a chickadee answering.”
Let hope be your wings and soar.
About Jeanette Michalets
Jeanette published her first novel, The Ten Cent Café, in 2013. It was recognized in 2011 by the Wisconsin Writer’s Association in its Jade Ring First Chapter Contest. Jeanette has also written for national magazines and local newspapers.
She collects notebooks, vintage children’s books and anything French. When not writing, she enjoys riding a tandem bike with her husband, traveling, bird watching walking her two sheepdogs, and of course, reading. She lives in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and regrets that because of modern technology, she no longer has the opportunity to spell “Ocononomowoc” over the phone, as was once the case.