In late 2020, a gentle, androgynous voice bloomed in my conscience.
Write it all down.
If you knew my long history with this voice, you’d know why I paused. Words filled my headspace like expanding balloons, and I batted them away, defensive and confused. Manuscript? I had at least 3 unfinished novels on my hard drive. I didn’t—Wait. Write WHAT down.
Start January 1st.
Um . . . no. What would I write? ‘Dear Diary, it’s 2020. I’ve been stuck inside a year. Texas is insane. Some turd stole my Biden/Harris sign last night, and if my mother tells me ONE MORE TIME to buy toilet paper or gas because the world’s ending I’m gonna lose my shit. Also can Covid please be over because quarantine with teenagers is no joke. Working in an empty library is kinda cool. But my husband hasn’t worked all year and—
Nope. I was too irritated with too many people. I could not possibly do this without making enemies.
You don’t know what’s going to happen.
Just write it down.
Pen to paper.
You can share your truth without being hurtful.
The next day I bought a notebook and stole my favorite pen from the library. No point arguing. I’d heard this voice on and off my whole life, and they only intervene when necessary. I didn’t know I’d witness an insurrection. That Texas would cease function and I’d almost freeze to death in my own home. That I’d lose family to rightwing lunacy. That my cousin would fall into a coma two days after his vaccine. That some nut job troll-Karens would try to have me fired over a book report. That I’d battle Covid for Christmas or that my little girl would be hospitalized for suicidal ideation.
But here we are. And I did the thing. With crippling anxiety, I wrote it all down. The stuff no one puts on Facebook. And shelving books one day, I realized sometime in the indeterminate future people will want an accurate snapshot of this insane time. And they won’t find it on social media, edited & spit-shined for public consumption. With few exceptions, every day is recorded.
My name is Jennifer. I read. I write. I hear voices. I document with authenticity.
Shelf Life is what happened in 2021.
Annndd cut. That up there is a query letter I sent to a handful of agents. l recently decided not to stop querying this manuscript. Feels weird even calling it that. It’s a diary. A pandemic journal. A Covid Captain’s Log. They’ll call it a memoir if it goes to publication, but I just call it what happened.
Convincing an agent to care about you without a million followers is a big ask. I’m no one special. My American experience isn’t more important than anyone else’s. But individual stories matter. Because together, they paint a collective truth. And truth always matters.
So I’ll share some entries in subsequent posts— not all. I’m well-aware the raw, personal nature of this project so save your pearl clutching. If you’re interested in more you know where to find me.
Let’s start on January 6th with the insurrection.