About 16 years ago, I wrote my first novel, Plan Z by Leslie Kove. I had a
sense, while I was writing the novel, that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do.
The first draft came out in about two months and I was in a state of
meditation for the whole writing. There was not a doubt in my mind that it
would be published. I immediately found an agent who was in love with the
book. He sent it to all the major New York City publishers and they all rejected it
because it was midlist.
I never believed this book would go unpublished, but I put it on a shelf for
15 years. I just figured eventually I would know when to do something with
it. One day, I was reading Poets & Writers Magazine, and I saw a first-
novel contest run by a publisher called Mid-List Press. A lightbulb went on in
my head, and I said, “That’s mine!” I submitted the book, fully expecting to
win their contest. Many months passed and I didn’t hear anything, so I
checked the www.midlist.org Web site. Much to my astonishment, somebody
else’s name was listed as the winner of the first-novel contest. “How can that
be?” I thought. “That was MINE.”
Accepting that I must have been wrong, I forgot about it. One day a few
months later, the phone rang, and it was the Publisher of Mid-List saying
they wanted to publish Plan Z by Leslie KoveÂÒC4/I> I assumed they had decided to
publish it outside of the contest. It wasn’t until I received the contract
that I realized I had won: this prize and publication were indeed mine. What I had seen on the Web site was the name of the previous year’s winner!
Plan Z by Leslie Kove is a funny novel about healing trauma. The protagonist writes her memoir after Life Plans A through Y have failed. Telling the story of their failure is Plan Z–the only option left. The book starts during the Vietnam era and progresses over nearly two decades. It’s a story of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and its healing, without ever overtly stating that. And for it to have been published now–in the aftermath of 9/11–seems to fit a plan I never could have conceived. But the book is out there. It’s helping people. I got a very moving letter from a psychotherapist telling me she was reading parts of it to her training groups.
The dream took 16 years, but sometimes that’s just how it is.
Betsy Robinson is Publishing Associate at Parabola.