A lifetime ago, longer as a writer, I wrote two novels: of Little Human Hearts and Bitch.. When I wanted them to be, neither were ready for publication. of Little Human Hearts is the first, and I’ll write about it here.
I self-published of Little Human Hearts, a story of the late 1950s in Mendocino County. A bright, intelligent eight-year-old boy has his first love affair with his third grade teacher and doesn’t know it. He tells the events of that school year.
I appreciated after self-publishing that the story was not ready. The text fit Mark Twain’s description: the spelling is “majestically lawless.” The word processing was done by a friend who cut and paste the same material twice to the same spot. I was impatient to get the book out and missed it and a whole bunch of other stuff.
The FIRST EDITION drew a review from the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Bruce Anderson: “ON SALE at Copy Plus is a book called “Little Human Hearts” by a youngish man named Karl Rauh. Mr. Rauh grew up in Anderson Valley in the late fifties. His book is based on events and personalities of the time, both in Anderson Valley and on the Mendocino Coast as seen through the eyes of an eight year old boy. I would think – based on my own quick reading – a number of the characters and episodes would be remembered by many old timers…”
I did not grow up in the Anderson Valley. I wrote the book, inserting characters into the setting and contriving events. I had no plausible marketing plan. I exhausted myself moving and trying to distribute the book to bookstores, some which didn’t pay after selling the inventory. I didn’t want to self publish again.
An opportunity came along. A new publisher was accepting submissions. of Little Human Hearts was accepted. I entered the text into word processing and caught a lot of mistakes, but not all. I made a few. Unknown to me the publisher italicized the jokes (humor) in the book. Rather than of Little…, the title became Of Little… The spelling was less lawless. The Second Edition was launched.
The characters were set; the setting was laid out, but the story. How did everything hang together, cogently? Was it coherent, at all? Unknown to me was a review by a reader on vacation, now appearing on Amazon: “This strange and curiously interestingly book I found tucked into the reading material of a Lake Tahoe hotel lobby. I wound up reading it for hours in that bed…Beneath the surface…are smoldering of adult trouble…It is very simply written, easy to skim quickly and yet it goes into such charming details…like hiking in a redwood forest, the sense of awe it inspires, the silence it brings to the visitors, all this he writes about with complete naiveté, like a child…Some readers may find the simplistic writing a bit annoying, but it is a valid style to convey the boy’s memories…”
This review indicates that I was able to advance the boy’s voice completely. But the story was wrong. The marketing of this edition was horrible. Not many people saw it. The First and Second Editions are online for sale at high prices.
In 2009 unprompted by me, the publisher relinquished all rights to of Little Human Hearts. I knew a Third Edition was necessary, but I had lost all feel for the book and the story. The setting was no longer attractive – Mendocino is cold, wet and humid. I’m a desert person – hot and dry. It took some concentration to contrive the energy to edit. What I brought were abilities to tell a story and better capacities to edit. I had to enter of Little Human Hearts into word processing again. While doing that I realized there were three sets of relationships – boy-teacher, boy-sibliings-other children, boy-parents. The emotional charges from one relationship had to enlarge, explicate, and contrast with the other relationships for the book to develop and tell its story.
Along the way I believe I learned a few things: A daughter who talks to her father a lot, and he challenges her so she enjoys that engagement (female-male) is less likely to fall for the first creep who throws her a line. Next, children who squabble with siblings are doing what comes naturally: They emulate their parents; they strive for attention; they are learning to act and react within this small scale of society. The role of the parents are to limit certain activities and certain speech but never to end the squabbling.
I now sense that the emotional stimuli from the three relationships support and improve the story, allowing the reader to build and arrive at the denouement satisfactorily. I eliminated all the italics; no author needs a signpost saying, I’M TRYING TO BE FUNNY HERE! I was happy the Copyright Office gave me a copyright for the Third Edition, of Little Human Hearts, iBookstore, Michael Ulin Edwards.