Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day one of my oldest, most cherished dreams came true: the dream of becoming an author.
My first book, Pioneer Boulevard: Los Angeles Stories, was released on June 29, 2013. I chose this day because it was the only weekend my older nephew/godson could make it from Canada, where he was an undergrad at Waterloo. His presence that day meant more to me than I’ll ever have the words for—more so because the poor guy went from the clement climes of southeastern Ontario to the fiery furnace of Southern California without a word of complaint.
June 29, 2013 remains among the hottest days I can recall in LA—and I’ve lived here 21 years now. But even the blazing sun could not dampen my joy as we drove to the book launch. The venue happened to be the very building where the idea for the book was born back in 2005, a few months after I became a US citizen.
At the time I was working at a small publishing company that had its head office in the aforementioned building. And although the term “side hustle” had not yet come into popular use, I had a side hustle. It was (and still is) that of an editor.
One evening I stayed back after work to finish a manuscript with an impending deadline. I was in the middle of doing something prosaic with my red pen—probably replacing a semicolon with a comma or changing the location of an apostrophe—when this idea dropped into my mind: I should write a collection of stories about Indians in Los Angeles.
Like Hamlet’s opening words, momentous ideas sometimes make their appearance without fanfare. For the first 64 lines of Act I, scene ii, the Prince of Denmark has been standing quietly on the side, his inky cloak blending in with the royal tapestry as Claudius addresses the affairs of state and the state of affairs. Suddenly the king seems to recall that his cousin Hamlet is now his son and he says something to this effect. In response Hamlet utters the first of his many words: “A little more than kin and less than kind.”
But that was an aside. Let me return to my story.
After that momentous first thought about the collection of stories, I had another thought and then another, and before I knew it I was writing “The Lavender Dress.” At the Iowa Summer Writing Festival the following year Bret Anthony Johnston suggested I reconsider the title, and since I’d learnt so much in Bret’s class on heroes and villains, I took his advice.
The renamed but yet-unpublished story got me accepted into the master’s program at Keele University, where I would write Pioneer Boulevard. During the first of our unforgettable tutorials my tutor, novelist Joe Stretch, told me that when he read the opening sentence of that story, it said to him, “Pleased to meet you, I’m a writer.”
As for Pioneer Boulevard, I suppose it says, “Pleased to meet you, I’m an author.” How good of an author, you must decide for yourself once you have read my book.
Seven years after my childhood dream came true, I can only say one of the few Latin phrases I know. Soli Deo gloria.