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The long, slow birth of Jigsaw Men
It was 2003 and I had a big New York agent representing a work of fiction I’d written, a long novel about living in the age of global terrorism. It was supposed to be my debut.
But you could sense the fear of the publishing establishment. Why take a risk on a first-time novelist writing about a future attack on an American city—at precisely the moment when the country was preparing for an endless war? And who the hell is John Tessitore?
After six months, I had a collection of very beautiful rejection letters, some from the presidents of very distinguished publishing houses.
I doubled down. Struck while the iron was hot. Wrote two more full length manuscripts. Rushed them, I guess. Too fast. Even the agents weren’t having me this time. (Although I stand by many passages of those manuscripts as well…at least one of them.)
I tried to convince myself to give up, but in 2006 I had a vision: a few ghosts sitting beside a living man, in a crappy apartment, on a ratty couch.
Having no prospects, and no faith in the process, I just wrote. And rewrote. On and off. For six years.
I cut the ghosts eventually. They were replaced by a box of documents—bills, letters, mementos—like the one I’d found at a relative’s house during a clean-up. A whole life in a shoebox.
And my experiences working at an organic farm…those crept in too.
And a blind man I’d met in a record store on Long Island.
And my concerns about the future of my country, and the future of our planet.
After six years, I’d had enough. I had to end the obsessive spiral. The writing and rewriting. So I self-published the story as Jigsaw Men: A Novella. But I only told a few people that it was available. Soon after, I withdrew it from Amazon and tried to forget it.
I reread it last year, during the pandemic, as the environmental crisis was becoming undeniable, and decided to republish it with a couple of edits and a new cover.
I think it holds up.
I’m honored to have two short pieces included among this month’s “Maya’s Micros” at The Closed Eye Open. “Warp and Woof” is a meditation on weaving and Eastern religion. “Flashback” is a broken memory wrapped in a broken haiku.
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