Once upon a time there was a draft manuscript on the corner of my desk, and its name was Blue Thread. One day I took that manuscript, so complete and neat, so very “done,” and tore it limb from limb, right down the middle. Here’s why.
The spark for my original Blue Thread, as some of you know, was this image I found on the Internet—a close-up of a photograph from a suffrage parade in Boone, Iowa, in 1908. The banner reads LIKE THE DAUGHTERS OF ZELOPHEHAD WE ASK FOR OUR INHERITANCE. I knew that these five daughters were women mentioned in the Old Testament/Torah, call it what you will. They wanted their dead father’s share of the Promised Land. So I conjured up a story that linked those daughters with a girl from New Jersey from 1957.
Say, what? In my defense, it seemed perfectly logical. The story of those daughters takes place when the Israelites were in transition between slavery in a foreign land and the establishment of nationhood in a land of their own. The United States in 1957 was also a place in transition. African Americans, women, gays, to name a few, were struggling to be first class citizens in their own country. Kids were questioning the assumptions of their parents who had lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Rock and roll was on the rise.
But something about Blue Thread didn’t click. Finally, I showed the first ten pages to editor Allyn Johnston at a writer’s retreat. We got to talking, and I mentioned that the daughters of Zelophehad were still an inspiration to the woman suffrage movement in America in the early 1900s. She asked me why I hadn’t used that time period instead of 1957. Have you ever felt energized, excited, and dumb at the same time? It was one of those moments.
That older Blue Thread survived dissection and has grown a new appendage called 1912 Portland. Now I’m working on the sequel, but the severed section of the old Blue Thread isn’t dead. It has started to regenerate into a 1957 story with the working title of Headlines, and maybe one day…