Sunday, January 20, 2013

Get it Done

I looked at gold-embossed letters on a granite-colored, linen envelope and ran my fingertips over them. They read American Writers Literary Publishing Company.

My hands trembled as I slipped a finger under the flap and slowly passed it the full length to break the seal. A letter waited inside, one I anxiously expected for several months. Every day, my routine included waiting out front for the mailman to arrive. Dad did not know of my excitement.

After removing and unfolding the letter, I read it.

“Dear Mr. Andrew Townser;

Please accept my personal request for the full manuscript, Child of the Rice. We usually work through literary agents, but your query letter, synopsis and first five chapters are more than good—they are positively enthralling. I usually do not get involved in submissions, but my acquisition team was so impressed with your story that they brought it to my attention. They were right to do so.

If the rest of your manuscript matches this sample and your synopsis, we will be quite interested in publishing and marketing your work.

Please consider our enclosed request for an exclusive submission. We are pleased to offer payment for this concession from you. A list of top New York literary agents is also included. When you contact them, feel free to mention that you have begun negotiations with us and need representation. I am certain you will have no trouble getting their attention.

Do not hesitate to call if you have any questions. My direct phone number is below. I am certain you have a major literary success here and we want it.

Yours truly,


John Benjamin, PhD
Senior Editor”

I sat hard on the kitchen chair and thought about the story.

Child of the Rice began as a story about forbidden love between a Vietnamese rice farmer’s daughter, Mai, and an American soldier. She becomes pregnant, and he dies in combat, never knowing she was with child. Cast out in disgrace by her family, the teenage girl and her child travel to the slums of Cholon near Saigon. The story follows her through a terrible gamut from prostitution, to Communist re-education camps, to her child being taken by government officials to rape on refugee boats—a dangerous path to freedom. Dad never finished writing the story, but I loved the parts I read.
Reading light: Mai's village
My father got choked up when he explained the story to me. He was a stoic man, so his emotions seemed odd at the time. Later, it dawned on me. The young soldier in this story; he did NOT die. It was dad! He rotated back to the States, never again to see his first love. Since then, every story about Vietnamese refugees in the news became personal. In his mind, it was not some nameless victim who pirates raped or Communists tortured. Hunger, disease and abuse . . . she was suffering, and it was his fault. Telling the story might be his way to memorialize the sweet love he left behind and to say he was sorry.

I wrote the reply to dad’s letter.

 “Dear Dr. Benjamin,

Thank you on behalf of my father for your wonderful offer.

Unfortunately, dad died four days ago without warning. It was a massive heart attack.

He worked on that story for over ten years, but never finished, always putting off his writing until “a better time.” I encouraged him to submit the query despite the incomplete manuscript. I thought there was ample time to write the ending in the months it would take for publishers to respond to the submission. Nobody expected him to die. He always said he would finish his story "next week."

We are having the following epitaph engraved on his headstone:

Here lies Andrew Townser, loving father and devoted husband. Author of the next great American novel . . . if only it had gotten completed.

Again, thank you for confirming my belief in dad’s writing.

Yours truly,
Kevin Townser”

In the past month, one of my old writing friends, Al Pugh, passed away unexpectedly. In my last message from him, he said, “. . . it did give me an epiphany on a WIP of mine. I need to make my hero Sherlock Holmes. (big smile) I'll call soon, maybe tomorrow, depending on how things go around here.”

Next thing I heard . . . Al was dead. Nobody will ever read his Sherlock Holmes story. RIP Big Al.

Moral of this blog:  Don’t be an Andrew Townser. He's not just a fictional character that I used to illustrate a point. He's a metaphor for the possible impact of procrastination. Things do happen in real life. Don't put off your writing or you might deprive the world of the next great American novel. Get your story done, and start on the next one!


  1. There are so many things that can interfere with writing. It has to be made a priority--maybe not the top priority, but it can't be at the bottom of the list.

    Thanks for the remender, Dean.

    1. Thanks, Terry.

      For anyone who doesn't know Terry, he's a full-time English teacher, local elected official, Sunday school teacher, wonderful husband & father . . . and after all that, he also manages to write fantastic books like Flank Hawk and Blood Sword. How does he do it? Priorities. I am in awe of Terry's productivity.

      Thanks again, Terry . . . Dean

      If you like great fantasy with high pace and unique plots, check out Terry's books on Amazon.


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