Help Me, Joni Mitchell. You're My Only Hope.

by - May 7, 2019

We sat around a campfire pit, sun bright and winking, spring finally feeling real, laughing, catching up, sharing stories. A fire didn't burn in the centre where flat stones were stacked in a neat circle, but I've learned it's not about the fire, it's about the people who gather there.

"So you're writing lots?" she asked. "You have a new book coming?"

Embarrassment tinged my cheeks. One: because her pink hair made me feel ordinary. And Two: because I didn't want to tell the truth.

It's my personal Groundhog Day cycle. Meet up with an old friend-acquaintance-stranger and they ask me the same thing: when is the next book coming?

And I want to stick my head in the sand and cry.

I am the Queen of Excuses. I feel like winter beat me up. Like motivation took a back seat to cuddly blankets and late sleeps. Like I forgot who I was for a long, frosty moment.

Last week, I'd had enough. I pushed the mess aside on my desk and got back to work. I called myself out on Instagram and promised anyone there who cared that I was finally ready.



And then I found myself at this campfire that wasn't a campfire. "You have a new book coming?"

"What I really wanted was to release Black Bird on Joni Mitchell's birthday," I said. "But that's November. I don't think I can do it. But she'll have other birthdays, I guess..."

Later, as I reflected on it, a hot bloom of shame pulsed through me. I'd completely lost touch of who I am.

  • I am the idiot (visionary?) who launched the inaugural issue of a new literary magazine less than four months after putting out a call for nationwide submissions.
  • I am the maniac who wrote the entire first draft of my first novel in THIRTY DAYS!
  • I am the introverted scaredy-cat who visited book clubs and knocked on indie book store owners doors and stood on a stage and read my own work at a standing room only event.

I did all those things because they scared me, because I wanted to grow, because I had a dream, and because I believed in myself.

For a moment, I forgot...

In 183 days, Joni Mitchell will turn 76.

183 days.

So here's the scary question: WHY NOT?

Why couldn't I have my book done in time? I wrote the first one in 30 days, for Pete's sake!

The horrible truth is, I've been plugging away at this novel since 2011. That's far too long. I became jaded to the story. Bored. Then the whole Me Too movement swept the nation and I became scared. (You'll have to wait for the Author's Letter I'll include with the book when it's published to learn why.) Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

183 days.

183 days to finish the draft. Edit. Send to beta-readers. Edit. Send to second round beta-readers. Edit. Layout. Proof. Print. Launch.

(I had to make a 3D image of it just to remind me that it could be real — that it will be real — and that it will be beautiful!)

Joni Mitchell is a pivotal cornerstone to the entire narrative of Black Bird. I won't tell you why, but I've fallen madly in love with her lyrics over the course of this project and nothing would be more fitting than to celebrate the birth of Black Bird with a birthday party for Joni.

All winter I wished I had a river to skate away on, but now I need to lean on something new.

And Joni said:

     If you can fill the journey of a minute
     With sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight
     Then the Earth is yours
     And Everything that's in it
     But more than that
     I know you'll be alright*


And I will.

See you in 183 days!


*If by Joni Mitchell from her 2007 album "Shine" an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's poem If.

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