This week’s Moment is an extraordinary thing: a novel I never would’ve picked up that I wound up loving. Part history, part mystery, part feminist manifesto, Shelley’s book exposes a little known slice of the American workplace post-industrialization. But this novel is much more than a learning experience. Shelley brings the girls of the Radium Dial Factory and their heirs to life, giving them all a dignity and voice that only the best fiction ever achieves. In the process we find out a little something about what to beware of, and what to embrace.
Recently, I met a woman who runs a booth at an antique mall. I mentioned I’d written a novel about the young factory girls who painted the numbers on the old clocks with the glow-in-the-dark dials. The woman told me occasionally visitors come in looking for the now rare clocks. She asked me more about the novel.
I handed her a copy of RADIUM HALOS and told her my publisher is a small press. She flipped to the back cover and read the short paragraph about the dial painters. “This novel would be perfect for my antique booth,” she said. “It takes place in the 1920s, and there’s that connection to the past. Why don’t you bring me a few copies, and we’ll set a little notice next to them with a picture of one of the old clocks.”
My novel. For sale. Where people can actually hold it in their hands before they buy it.
Now, that’s a moment.
There are moments when writers believe just maybe they’ve accomplished something extraordinary, and there are moments when others validate that belief. The first writing award I won—honorable mention in a local contest—meant I was capable of putting eloquent words on a page that would leave an impression. Then, knowing that someone liked my work enough to offer to share it with the masses—also a great moment.
Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a veteran, each little accomplishment is a boost to your confidence. My next moment will hopefully be when my novel is a featured publication at one of our indie bookstores. Later, is it okay for me to pine away for a film option?
I imagine a writing career will generate a succession of “made it” moments, which all have one thing in common: they connect us as writers and as human beings.