It’s a bit of a long saga, but this has felt absolutely magical to live through.
CW: breastfeeding, miscarriage/bleeding, moving house, past trauma, lack of medical care due to finances — mostly just brief mentions.
The Lost Manuscript
In November of 2008, when I decided to try National Novel Writing Month for the very first time ever, I had two tiny children (ages just-3 and 1 year old). We were also preparing for a 3,000 mile move across the United States in upcoming early December. This all while our little family managed to survive on one below-poverty income.
Every single evening that November, I’d nurse the children to sleep. Then I’d dash to my tiny living room (in our 400 sq/ft house) and type as quickly as I could on an old clunky blue iMac until one (or both) of the children woke up again, requiring more snuggles and nursing before I could go write more.
That was an intense manuscript to write. Y’all, I fictionalized and processed my utterly baffling college experience in that manuscript. I didn’t know why my experience had been so confusing. I had no idea I was Autistic and I just wrote and wrote, retelling my experiences as “Carolyn” my main character while listening to Jacqui Naylor’s cover of “Once in a Lifetime” on repeat, using lyrics from that song as chapter titles, informing my story’s structure.
Then, the day after I’d passed my 50,000 word goal, I had horrific abdominal pain and immense (what I thought was menstrual) bleeding. I remember lying on the floor and screaming in pain at one point, unable to move. We couldn’t go to a doctor or hospital because we had no money. We had no insurance because we couldn’t afford that either (Thanks, USian “health care” system…).
An online midwife friend of mine strongly encouraged me to at least go get a pregnancy test just to be sure it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy or anything like that. Well, the pregnancy test was positive, but the immense pain had lessened by that point and it turned into a more normal miscarriage like my previous one had been. No complications, thank goodness.
We were supposed to begin our 3k mile move across the country in ten days at that point.
So… in all the trauma and hubbub of moving with two small children immediately after having a miscarriage, I lost my manuscript.
At the time I thought I’d saved my manuscript plenty of times, no worries! After all, the manuscript was saved on the iMac (which we still have) and I was certain that I had also backed it up to my Google Docs account.
But around 2012, when I first really started searching for that manuscript in earnest, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I looked in the files we’d moved over from the iMac, I looked in Google Docs, and I searched for the title of my manuscript on every computer we owned.
I didn’t panic though. I figured it would turn up again eventually and if it didn’t then panicking wouldn’t help anyhow.
But it bothered me to not be able to find that manuscript (especially as I began to really put together my history with what I was learning about autism) and, from time to time, I’d search again without any luck whatsoever.
Shockingly, my manuscript finally re-appeared earlier this Spring! I wasn’t even looking for it. I was in Google Docs, intending to add a new document, when I decided to scroll down just to see what was there. Way down at the bottom, dated 11/26/2008, was a file entitled “Everything.”
I stopped breathing, scared to even open the file to see if it was the right one, I messaged Counterpart to let him know that I thought I’d found my long-lost manuscript! “What do I do now???” I messaged him, feeling fairly frantic because now that I might have found it, I didn’t know what to do. It had been almost a decade of searching and… it had been in Google Docs the entire time!!!
Also, who names their manuscript “Everything” and expects to find it ever again??? I mean, really… although, arguably, I think I found it when I needed to and not a moment sooner.
With Counterpart’s support, I saved the document on my computer and then I formatted it for printing so I could read through it and see if there was anything usable there. I didn’t know if it was going to be good or bad or horrific (probably not excellent, but maybe!).
I’ve read through half of the manuscript now (I think some of it will definitely be usable!) and now comes the serendipity part.
Back in 2007, when I was pregnant with my second child, a close friend of mine loaned me Ariel Gore’s *parenting books, which I read voraciously (and repeatedly). I’m not in Gen X, not really. I’m actually an elder millennial, but most of my mom-friends at the time were Gen X because, as an elder millennial 22-year old first-time mom, most millennials I knew weren’t having babies until my oldest children were nearly middle-school aged.
Ariel Gore was amazing and I loved how she wrote about being a mother!
Flash-forward to a couple months ago, right after I’d found my manuscript, a writer-friend of mine was encouraging me to take a writing workshop with an instructor they’ve been working with for a while. I’ve had kind of a lifelong nervousness about writing workshops (possibly because I had an undiagnosed communication disability for most of my life), but I’ve felt for a while that I should maybe give writing workshops another try.
So, still feeling elated from the discovery of my long-long manuscript, I signed up for the workshop (happening next month) and a few days later received an email with information about an upcoming workshop with… Ariel Gore!!!
Well, I couldn’t pass that up, and a writing workshop with Ariel Gore coming up right after I’d found this long-lost manuscript seemed unlikely to be entirely a coincidence because I knew I’d read Gore’s books around 2007-2008, so her writing possibly even influenced my now-found manuscript!
I signed up for that workshop too and ordered Ariel Gore’s two newest books (one is a pre-order) because the host writing instructor suggested we purchase them and how could I not?
Then I waited excitedly for my package to arrive!
This past weekend, still waiting on that newly ordered Ariel Gore book, I found an old journal containing notes about my 2008 National Novel Writing Month manuscript. On the page directly across from my novel notes were pretty detailed notes (with page numbers even!) from a book I vaguely remember reading around that time… a book entitled How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead and the notes were really great!
I was surprised to find the notes because I’d forgotten I’d read that book at all, but I must have been reading it around the time I wrote my manuscript because I usually write in journals chronologically. Also, I’m fairly certain I read that book before we moved, not after, which would imply that I was literally reading that book while I was writing mine.
I thought that was really cool! More writing advice from 2008 coming to me right when I’m working through my newly-found 2008 novel!
So… today. Today I received my new Ariel Gore book (We Were Witches) and when I opened the cover, I landed on the page that listed all of her previous books.
Ariel Gore wrote a book entitled How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights, a fact I’d completely forgotten until today. The how-to-write book that I was reading when I wrote the manuscript that I found not even two months before I signed up for a writing workshop WITH Ariel Gore, was written by Ariel Gore.
To be completely honest, I’d forgotten about Ariel Gore for the most part because I was too busy parenting and trying to manage on extremely limited finances to think about much else for many years. I moved the two *parenting books she’d written from house to house for well over a decade, having fond thoughts every time I picked them up, but it didn’t occur to me to google her or to see if she’d written anything else since we moved in 2008…
But when I finally found my manuscript, when I guess everything needed to come full circle around somehow, she and her books (and her workshop) came into my life without me even looking for them. The same way my manuscript did.
Maybe it’s all meaningless and coincidence and maybe it’s silly to read anything more into this than a simple fluke of fate; but regardless, I see this as an opportunity.
I wrote a manuscript about my experiences in college as an undiagnosed Autistic person before I knew I was Autistic.
Now I know. Now it’s been so long…
Now I can properly frame that story and tell it in a way that could potentially help other people in addition to helping me process everything that happened back then.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!
I literally even tested positive for COVID within a week of finding that manuscript, which meant that I had a completely cleared schedule and plenty of solitude within which to read and mark up the first half. Not altogether a happy event, of course (I was pretty miserable), but it worked out in some ways for sure.
I’m so excited to see what happens next!
*The Hip Mama Survival Guide: Advice from the Trenches on Pregnancy, Childbirth, Cool Names, Clueless Doctors, Potty Training, and Toddler Avengers
AND The Mother Trip: Hip Mama’s Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood