The Weight of Guilt
By Jon Ripslinger
Genre: Young Adult
Driving home from a bonfire party, eighteen-year-old John Hawk crashes, killing his girlfriend, Riley. Bullied and tormented at school, his guilty conscience crushing him, John transfers to a school on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he attracts the eye of the principal’s daughter, Megan Jones. Though he’s reluctant, she convinces him to be her prom date. The morning after prom, Principal Jones reports Megan missing. Four days later, her body is recovered from the Mississippi River, and John becomes the prime suspect in her death, a rape and murder case.
Charley Cotton, Megan’s best friend, knows that Megan had a secret, but she doesn’t trust John because of his past. John is desperate to avoid adding to the shame he carries for Riley’s death—it’s destroying his life. With Charley’s help, he learns that others in Megan’s life have a motive to keep her quiet. But every effort they make to uncover the truth edges them closer to a desperate murderer with everything to lose.
No doubt every writer has lows in his career.
I had one that lasted seven years.
In 1992 I found an agent to represent the second novel I’d written—the first one still remains in my file drawer. The book was titled Triangle. My agent also found a publisher, Harcourt Brace, and in 1994 the book hit the marketplace with good reviews. The publisher quickly offered me a contract for a second book and paid me $1500, half of my $3000 advance. Man, I thought I was headed for a brilliant writing career as a young adult novelist.
But I was wrong.
The editor who worked with me on Triangle left Harcourt Brace, and though I’d signed a contact with HB, the company decided not to publish my second book, but I was allowed to keep my $1500. Not only that, my agent decided she no longer wanted to represent fiction, so she dropped me.
So there I was: 1996, no agent, no publisher.
What did I do? I kept writing and kept looking for a new agent.
And I’ll tell you why.
First of all, I fell in love with my writing space at home. The room was once a bedroom for my two daughters. But when they moved out, I quickly moved in. A full-sized metal office desk with five drawers faces the west wall. On it sits my iMac and an HP all-in-one Deskjet printer. On the wall above the desk is a four-foot long shelf holding thirty-five hardcover and paperback books (I just counted them) about the craft of writing fiction. Above the shelf hangs a clock. Other walls support shelves the hold perhaps 100 paperback and hardcover novels that I bought and read before I discovered amazon.com and Kindle. Two large inspirational posters that I glance at every day hang on the walls. One says: Miracles happen only to people who believe in them. The other: Happy are those who dream dreams and are eager to pay the price to make them happen. The room is my sanctuary, a place where I can meet with the characters in my head and record their adventures. I think every writer needs a space like that. Without it, I think I would have quite writing.
Secondly, I didn’t quite because I fell in love with the process of writing.
I simply love to return to the computer every morning and hook up again with my story friends. Listening to them telling their story in my head and recording it are the most important things I can do that day. I like to start at maybe six o’clock in the morning and write until nine and then have breakfast. Grocery shopping, lawn cutting, snow blowing, doctor appointments, and everything else can wait until later in the day. If something drastic happens and I can’t get to the computer with my story friends, I feel guilty. I don’t try to meet them later in the day. Morning is the only time for me and for us.
I’ll offer this somewhat embarrassing statistic from my records. During the twenty plus years I’ve been writing YA novels, I have sent out over 200 book queries to agents and publishers and have had only nine books accepted for publication. Not a very good batting percentage. Would a person really do that, go through all that work, if he didn’t love his space and the process?
I don’t think so.
After Jon retired as a public high school English at Davenport West High school, he began a career as a young adult author. His credits include eight published YA novels, and he has signed a contract with Red Adept publishing for a ninth YA novel. Jon has been a presenter at the Pen-in-Hand workshops for the Midwest Writing Center, Davenport, IA, and for the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference held yearly at St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa. He has also published numerous short stories in Woman’s World, a leading woman’s weekly magazine. Jon and his wife live in Davenport, where their six children and their families also live. When not working on his computer crafting another story, Jon enjoys collecting music from the ’40s and ’50s playing pool, and spending time with his family.
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On Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1PjNhmB
On Red Adept: http://bit.ly/1Zm4639
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