Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making Possible the Impossible

This is a sponsored post from Disney and BlogHer.
“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

I nourish an inclination for impossible situations. Stories of those who overcame insurmountable obstacles in order to achieve a worthy goal ignite my courage and fuel my drive. The Disney production of Secretariat will be released on October 8. I am looking forward to the dramatization of Penny Chenery’s story of determination and grit as she fought the odds and won. It is such a determined spirit that made America great, the stuff of which legends are made, and yet it happened within living memory.  According to the official website:
 Based on the remarkable true story, “Secretariat” chronicles the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner.  Housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) agrees to take over her ailing father’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge.  Against all odds, Chenery—with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich)—manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time.
I remember hearing about Secretariat as a child. Frederick County was the heart of Maryland horse country. We kept horses ourselves and followed the news about Secretariat with interest. I little guessed at the time that I would someday have my own impossible situation to overcome. 

In 1995 I wrote a novel about Marie-Antoinette and called it Trianon. I had been fascinated by Marie-Antoinette since the age of nine. By the time I was a grad student I had visited Versailles twice, but it was not until I saw a picture of Petit Trianon in Smithsonian Magazine that I felt inspired to write something about the Queen. It was just a photo of a staircase, but in my mind’s eye I could see Marie-Antoinette walking down it. I wanted to capture a moment in time, one of those happy moments that were like islands in a sea of tragedy in the life of Marie-Antoinette. I was already deep into research about the French Revolution as part of my graduate studies. I wrote the Prologue and then put the whole thing aside for ten years.

After a trip to Vienna in late 1994, I found the manuscript and the notebooks with my research in my father’s basement. I felt compelled by my trip to Vienna to take it up again, for I had visited the tomb of Marie-Antoinette’s mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, in the Capuchin crypt.

It was a turbulent time in my life, as I was undergoing a major career change. I had no computer, no internet, and little money. Nevertheless, I was imbued with the desire to tell the story of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as it had never before been told, shedding a new light upon the gravely misunderstood King and Queen. I wrote ten hours a day, stopping only to eat, sleep and pray. Before I even completed the final manuscript, I began sending out query letters and sample chapters to every publisher I could think of. Rejection after rejection came. I knew in my heart that somehow Trianon would be published although at the time it seemed futile.