Mike Tyson said that.

And a company called Busy Building Things immortalized the saying on a little plaque that sits above my desk even as I type this.

Everybody Has A Plan print

I think it’s amazingly profound!

It’s quite self explanatory, I guess. I mean, you make a plan, a strategy, and then you jump into the fray and as soon as you get knocked upside the head, the plan flies out of your head and you’re just in it to survive.

Custer had a plan.

His plan was always based on bravado. He jumped into the fray and often his very fearlessness was what saved him.

Didn’t save him at Little Big Horn, but it did during the Civil war and even later during some of his Indian campaigns when he won many a battle through utterly thoughtless and reckless actions.

I’ve been punched in the face and about the head so many times I should have cauliflower ears (figuratively speaking).

And then I got punched again.

Not sure if I’m punch drunk yet.

But the funny thing is, I went over to visit one of my daughters, since I got back from Singapore, had fun with the grandkiddies, told her about the recent spate of rejections for the Hajj novel and she said something pretty interesting.

She said maybe I needed to ‘cave’.

I need to write things that will appeal better to modern kids.

I just looked at her.

Not sure if my mouth was open or not.

It probably was.

Basically it was another punch to the face, only this time by family.

And by someone who refuses to compromise her values in so many different ways.

And yet, the funny thing is I’ve been racking up the rejections lately. Haven’t sold a book for quite a while.

Not sure if I even call the second sale of the King of the Skies (kite) story as another sale. I guess I should refer to it as another sale, but it’s not a ‘fresh’ story, so in my head, I don’t count it.

I’ve written three full length novels in the past four years that have suffered various rejections.

Would you call those punches to the face?

I guess.

And yet, I’m remarkably sanguine about it all.

I don’t think it’s the stories that necessarily need changing. It’s the WAY that I told them.

And maybe I’m completely wrong, but I actually feel it’s the publishers that need developing.

And my writing is so totally DIFFERENT from my speaking ability that it’s a completely different realm we’re talking about.

I do think that if an audience heard me talk about these novels, I think they would clamour to read them. It’s the publishers who are shying away–and that’s their right.

That is, once the audience heard me, they’d get where I’m coming from.

They’d have the necessary context. So what I have to do in my revisions, is manufacture that context. That’s where I’m failing.

What I have been telling myself is that I do need to write more like I present/speak. There seems to be something quite natural and effortless in my presenting/speaking ability that doesn’t always show up in my writing.

And yet all three of those novels I wrote, including the Hajj novel, are well constructed and well written stories. The stories stand on their own merit.

I would definitely read each of them.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the publishers aren’t interested in publishing them…yet.

Yet…being the operative word.

And what fascinates me, absolutely fascinates me is that of the rejections I received for the Hajj novel, the one publisher that I consider to be the very best in terms of quality, a publisher that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to work with, is the one that seemed to get what I was trying to accomplish the most!

And my agent, who is one of the TOP in the field, gets it!

Those are very good signs!

Why would you change strategies if the people who really know what they’re doing, are getting it?

So I am revising it.

I took the comments of ALL the publishers that rejected it, collated the comments and am paying attention to them as I overhaul the story.

Not in terms of any of the major storylines!

No, no, no!

Those all work!

What I’m doing is trimming and shaping!

My inner editor is SO excited!

You shouldn’t feel like that when you get rejections/punches in the face should you? And yet I do!

I’m excited!

Because I think I know how to fix it!

And it never ever was about me!

It was always, and continues to be, about the story!

And this time I have the good opinion of my agent on my side.

She likes it too!

If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have sent it out.

I find it a little ridiculous that the publishers couldn’t see that it really doesn’t need that much revision.

Maybe it’s because it’s about a Muslim. Or maybe it’s because the character can be little prickly, and heaven knows we don’t tolerate our multicultural characters to be too prickly and bitter.

We don’t want to read about bitter people. Only white characters played by Jack Nicholson or Shirley Maclean can be bitter and self-absorbed, dontcha know! Ethnic characters have to be paragons of virtue!

Well pfffft to that!

I already did that with Wanting Mor. Jameela is a paragon of virtue. But there’s a very REALISTIC and COMPELLING reason for that!

Her very survival depends on it!

Goodness she’s on tip toe through the whole book!!!

The people that surround her won’t abide her getting uppity. So she doesn’t.

And from the comments in these rejections, I realized something.

You see any minority goes through a sort of evolutionary process in terms of literature.

When we’re dealing with cultures of the ‘other’ we always start with the ‘noble savage’. And then eventually we evolve to the myriad of characters that reflect a well-rounded understanding of any culture’s humanity.

The book Uncle Tom’s Cabin comes to mind as a perfect example of ‘noble savage’ literature.

Oh I cannot think of a bigger piece of crappy sentimentality on the face of the earth! There’s a reason why calling an African American an Uncle Tom is such a HUGE insult!

I actually read the book y’know. Read it when I was fairly young. Basically Uncle Tom is a black slave with the cruelest master around (Sam McGee if memory serves me right) who basically beats him to death, and Tom, the loyal slave, in his Christian way, turns the other cheek, literally to death!

He’s a martyr. What message do you think that sent, loud and clear, to the African American community???

White people in 1852, when it was published, LOVED it! They could really admire Uncle Tom! The story flew in the face of their experience of black people, and all their stereotypes. It’s the one text that really galvanized the abolition movement!

It made them…GASP…feel sorry for them! And even a little ASHAMED!

That’s the noble savage stereotype!

You might think it’s a positive.

It isn’t.

It’s putting an ethnicity into an impossible little box. A box where white people can feel COMFORTABLE about them because they’re VICTIMS and so, not THREATENING.

Jameela’s like that. But not because white people put her in a box, it’s because her own people have.

So when I wrote what I thought would be the sequel, I had time pass, and she got herself together enough to actually start asserting herself and…GASP…make some MISTAKES! Mistakes that any one of us takes for granted as the NATURAL EVOLUTION of a person’s character!

And you know what the publisher said? They said they couldn’t RECOGNIZE her!



And I thought, okay, that means I didn’t do a proper job connecting the dots between where she was at the end of Wanting Mor and where she was at the beginning of Cinderella in Kabul. And I asked myself, do I really want to???

And yet Cinderella in Kabul  works. Sure I need to revise it for ethnic accuracy, but darn it, I like it!

And the best piece of advice I got was from a dear friend, Laurie Halse Anderson, who suggested I just change the name of the main character to something else and submit it as a stand alone novel. Which is what I’m planning to do.

There was my plan, I got punched in the face, and now I’ve got a new strategy.

Is it what I would prefer?

No way!

But the story says EXACTLY what I want it to say! And thrills me to the core.

No way am I changing my message.

Same with the Hajj novel.

It says what I want it to say. I would read this novel, and that has ALWAYS been my measure of whether it’s any good. Because I’m about as picky as anything!!!

Somehow I’ve got the feeling that sooner or later, it’s the PUBLISHERS who’ll catch up. Or not.

I have no intention of turning it into an Uncle Tom/noble savage story!

I’d rather leave the story in my computer files than do that to it just to get it published!

And if that makes me a Custer riding headlong into battle, then so be it.

But I rather think I’m more Crazy Horse, content within myself, collapsing my teepee, and moving my camp, to lead my horse to better pasture.

No guarrantee we’ll get there, but somehow I’m not worried.

I’m actually really confident.

And I’m still standing.

Haven’t been knocked down by all those punches to the face yet.

And yes, I still have a plan.