I have been living and breathing Annapolis in December 1783 for ages. I wrote the first draft of my early American Cinderella story for Nanowrimo in, major sigh, 2016.
I fell in love with my characters right away. Rosalind, in love with a neighbor since they were children playing in the garden, is sent off to Annapolis after the relationship sours. It’s December 1783, days before George Washington is due to arrive there to resign his commission as commander in chief of the victorious Continental Army. Alexander Prince, a young fictional aide-de-camp to General Washington, anxious about returning to his poor Philadelphia home now that his Army days are at an end, hopes for a more comfortable future. Perhaps Rosalind is the answer…
Sure I was sure I had written a winner, I sent my story TO DANCE WITH THE GENERAL out into the world for an early round of agent pitches in May. Then, emboldened, out for its first queries. Every response came back negative.
Most were the vanilla no thanks comments that you can almost hear accompanied by a yawn.
Then I got this one: No but we like your passion. And still “I’m afraid we’re not seeing a strong enough hook.”
That’s all it took. I didn’t start over exactly but I decided Rosalind needed more than a Cinderella story. She needed to learn to stand on her own two feet as she looked for her future. It wouldn’t be enough to be rescued the way Cinderella was. She had to rescue the prince.
I went away for the weekend. Spent it at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. Where this painting caught my eye. I’m sure it’s supposed to be Mardi Gras—there’s a mask you can’t see in my photo. But it was the expression in their faces that caught me. That and Rosalind’s flaming red hair.
Rosalind dreams of her moment at the ball…She’ll dance with the famous George Washington…then the gallant Lieutenant Prince will stretch out his hand to lead her into the ballroom. She’s already falling in love with him, still unaware of what the future holds.
I played hard in New Orleans, lots of walking, good food, Sazeracs and jazz. But this painting haunted me. My revision was nearly at the ballroom scene. I had to get Rosalind to the ball. I knew she would dance with the General. Would she meet the charming Mr. Prince? Would they dance as she hoped they would? She wasn’t wearing glass slippers. This isn’t quite a fairy tale. So when the bell chimes at midnight, what would happen?
I had to write. I found inspiration in that painting, hearing the strains of a minuet, seeing the flicker of candlelight, wondering how these two young lovers would meet again.
I’m nearly finished. Again. It’s almost time to sent Rosalind and Alexander out into the world for a new round of queries.
I hope it’s good timing. NaNoWriMo is about to get underway again.