“My answer to the woman who asked if I wrote ‘The Secret Life of Bees Myself’ was a simple yes, but I could have added that I had a lot of help.” Sue Monk Kidd
Here’s a wonderful story about the mysteries of the creative process to energize and embolden you. It’s the story of how Sue Monk Kidd came to write her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which spent two years on the New York Times best-seller list and has sold more than 5,000,000 copies in 35 countries.
At the age of thirty, Sue had a passing fancy about writing a novel, but she let it flutter away. Instead, she became a freelance writer and penned three memoirs. Then in her forties, the idea of writing a novel surfaced again. “It’s hard to say which was more compelling, though, my desire or my trepidation,” she recalls.
She dived in and began. Soon an image floated into her head “of an adolescent girl lying in bed while bees squeezed through cracks in the wall and flew around her room. Gradually a story sprouted, about a white girl named Lily who runs away with her African American caretaker in South Carolina in 1964.”
Sue wrote a “rambling first chapter and took it to a writer’s conference.” The news wasn’t encouraging. She was told that its novel potential was limited, but if she worked hard and polished it, she might have a short story. That’s exactly what she did and it was published.
After that, she put her “bee novel” aside and spent a few years writing short stories, taking classes, and studying craft. Then she had a stroke of luck: she was selected for a Poets & Writers’ Writers Exchange Program. “Being chosen energized me with encouragement and a sense of support, with a kind of second wind,” she recalls. She went off to New York from South Carolina to meet authors, editors, and agents and read her short story, “The Secret Life of Bees” at the National Arts Club. After the reading, a literary agent came up to her and said, “I hope that’s the first chapter of your novel.”