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I wrote a novel.

It’s being published in November.

Between those two sentences are 14 surprising years of my life.

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That's me in the yellow cardigan.

Andrew Simonet here. I directed Headlong Dance Theater for 20 years with my collaborators Amy Smith and David Brick. You might also know me from Artists U, the work I do with artists around building sustainable lives.

There's another thing I've been quietly doing for a long time: writing fiction.

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2004

Ten years into my Headlong life, I started writing a novel. It showed up is the way I’d describe it.

Privately, secretly even, I wrote, talking into a tape recorder on my commute, stealing moments on vacation.

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2007

My computer crashed, and I lost most of what I’d written.

I told myself:
This is a sign.
Stop wasting time on this, Andrew.

A few months later, I was back at it.

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2011

I did my first solo artist retreat in this dune shack in Cape Cod. It was off the grid, no electricity, no phone service. I wrote with a pencil and saw no one for a week.

Finally, I had a manuscript I believed in. I tried, haltingly, to find an agent (what’s that?) or a publisher. Some people almost wanted it. One agent had me revise the manuscript for a year, then said no.

I told myself: This is a sign.
Don’t start another novel, Andrew. Definitely don’t.

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2012

I started another novel.

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2013

I left Headlong, lovingly and tearfully. I focused my creative energies on writing.

“What do you do?”
“I’m a moderately successful choreographer turned unpublished writer."

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2014

I did a writing retreat at this fancy place. Hogwarts for artists.

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2017

I finished Wilder.

I read this artist’s post about trying to get 100 rejections (cause then you’re bound to get some yesses). I flipped my attitude and sought out rejections. I submitted to dozens of agents through the “slush pile,” the painfully accurate term for unsolicited manuscripts.

My dream agent, Rebecca Stead, a writer I much admire, said yes. Two months later, she had multiple publishers bidding for the rights to Wilder.

Oh my goddess.

It happened.

***

2018

Wilder will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on November 13, fourteen years after I began writing. That’s half of my adult life. Amazing.

Wilder is narrated by Jason, a young man in trouble, a hilarious, sweet, and sometimes violent kid.

It’s being published as Young Adult fiction (definitely PG-14 with the language, sexuality, and fighting), but it’s a novel I’m proud to have any adult read. Writing Jason's voice, I thought about young people who have to raise themselves, about how unequal everything is and the stories we tell ourselves about that. Mostly, I thought about masculinity, the stories we men tell ourselves that prop up our judgments, our grievances, our violence.

It's also funny. Jason is hilarious, and so is the young woman who shakes up his world.

***
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Me writing with a pencil in a dune shack seven years ago.

I think about how long it takes to make something strong and real.

I think about this strange, magical, arduous life of making dances and stories.

I think about devotion, bringing care to something when the world isn’t (yet) interested.

I think about all the mission-driven people I know—artists, activists, educators, healers, scientists—and the decades of devotion they bring to work that can be hard to understand, hard to explain, and rarely rewarded with the resource and recognition it deserves.

If you are doing that work, I feel you. And thank you.

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Interested in Wilder? Three things you can do:

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3) Come to my launch party!

November 19 at Fringearts in Philadelphia.

 
   
 
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