by Sioux Roslawski
I just finished South of Broad this morning. It's the first novel by Conroy that I've read (and yes, I can already hear you muttering under your breath. No, I've never read Prince of Tides or The Great Santini but I have seen the movies. No, I can't explain why it took so long for me to read one of his novels. No, I can't tell you why this book called to me from a thrift store shelf, compelling me to buy it.)
I can't tell you why I picked this Conroy book to begin with, nor can I tell you why I started it at this point in my life, when I have several other books on my “must read” list. I really can't explain it, but I'm so glad I took the plunge, made the small investment, and read it now ...because I needed this particular book now.
Let me fill you in on some recent writing tidbits about me. I finished a NaNoWriMo (it actually took two years' worth of NaNo to do it) and thought it was so ready for some beta readers as soon as I finished typing the last word, that I printed off all 158 pages of tightly-typed text and handed it to them. (When you read “so ready,” read it with a voice dripping with crazy delusion and childlike denial.) Four of the first five readers threw it back in my face, saying essentially “There are some worthwhile scraps, so scrap most of it and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.” The fifth is still doubled-over and retching in the corner ...
As soon as the feedback began tumbling out of their mouths, I saw my WIP through more objective, realistic eyes. In my heart, I knew it needed a major overhaul. However, I was directionless when it came to the major thread of the story—the thick hunk of yarn that would make this yarn worthy of reading.
But then it came ...and Pat Conroy waited until almost the very last page to give it to me, like a gift. A “conversation” that Leo was having with Eugene Haverford included a question—just four words long—that hit me like a lightning bolt. Immediately, I knew how my manuscript would be woven together. I knew I was going to include the same question at the end of my story, thanks to Conroy.
And best of all, I knew I now had the nudge to get some serious momentum going.
Things often happen the way they do and with the timing they do for a reason. I could have read this book about life and about healing six months earlier or a six months later, and it might not have seared me like it did ...now.
Read widely. Read voraciously. Be open to what you can absorb like a sponge. You never know where inspiration—or a nudge—will come from.
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