Chera Hammons: Poet and Writer

"…a slow shutter on ambulation…"

Monarchs of the Northeast Kingdom

Happy Tuesday, friends! I have some great news: I have signed with the wonderful Torrey House Press to publish my suspenseful literary novel Monarchs of the Northeast Kingdom. The novel is set in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont, which is the coldest region in the state. The protagonist is an aging woman who is chronically ill. Like me, she has Lyme disease. When she is abruptly left on her own, she must figure out how to protect her land and what she loves from danger. There are horses, dogs, coyotes, bears, poachers, and all sort of surprises. Readers so far have told me they couldn’t put it down. One reader told me she wants a sequel (okay, I have to be honest– that particular reader was my mom! Seriously, though, my parents are super supportive of my writing, and I appreciate them. Thanks, mom!).

My husband Daniel, whose doctoral thesis Animal Ethics and Theology was published by Routledge a few years back, and who currently writes genre ecofiction, first pointed me in the direction of Torrey House, for which I am grateful. I am careful about where I send my manuscripts. My choices largely depend on what I need for the book to accomplish in the world. Everything I read about Torrey House impressed me. Among other things, the press is conscientious, it cares about the same issues I do, it’s run by women (yay!), and the books are all attractively designed. It seemed perfect. So I submitted the book and let time pass, and then I got an email that led to a phone call. I stood at the window and watched the sun set over the canyon while I spoke to an editor about publishing my book.

I am so thrilled this press is willing to give my book a chance. They’ve been amazing to work with and their books are gorgeous and important. Publishing novels has been a lifelong dream of mine. I’ve outlined and begun writing at least twenty novels I’ve never finished over the years; I always got to about 12,000 words and stopped. I’m sometimes too harsh a critic of my own work to write things longer than poems, because I can start to get more and more unhappy with what I’m writing, and then I get discouraged and abandon it. But this time, I told myself I’d finish my novel no matter what. For me, that meant it had to be on point all the way through. And now, miracle of miracles, I will be able to share it with other people. More than that– I hope it will be the first novel of many.

To say I suffer from imposter syndrome would be an understatement. I am one of those unfortunate people who distrusts good news; I always wonder, at first, when I receive some recognition, if it’s a mistake. Right now I have two personally important books coming out at dream presses in 2020 (besides Monarchs at Torrey House, I also have a poetry book– Maps of Injury— forthcoming from Sundress Publications), and I’ve poured so much time, energy, and love into them, I’ve run empty in my daily life a few times. The anxiety is trying to take hold. I keep asking myself, “How can this be?” Right now, 2020 seems like a long way off. Here’s hoping life as we know it (actually, preferably, a better version of it) can continue for at least the next two years or so–

At any rate, I have decided to enjoy the prospect of publications ahead without worrying so much about everything. I decided to write my first novel, and then committed to doing it, so I can decide this, too. I wrote at least 700 words every day when I was writing Monarchs, and those words slowly but surely became a book. Every day that passes now brings it closer to something I can hold in my hand.

To anyone out there, reading this– If you’ve been thinking of writing your own book, but the task seems too daunting– Start small. Set a daily or weekly goal you know you can reach, and don’t quit until you reach it. Start anew every day. You can do this. And guess what? Once you’ve done it once, you’ll know you can do it again.

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