Then I dug around a little more and found the later drafts, heavy packets of paper that made me feel guilty (so much paper!) but also went about 200 pages into a story that still tugged at my soul. I found all of the clippings that I'd saved during research: newspaper articles about seals that had wandered into New York City waters, musings on what would actually happen if one fell into a black hole (nothing good), Yoruba folktales, analyses of C.S. Lewis and fairy tales, my photographs from a tour of a secret subway tunnel in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, and more from a sort-of secret swimming pool in the bowels of Columbia University -- one of the oldest indoor pools in the country, featuring a bronze lion's head that once worked as a fountain, spouting water onto the swimmers below. And chapters upon chapters reuniting me with a beloved, difficult, wonderful protagonist and her adventures above and below ground.
I had put it all away a long time ago, having gotten to that point where I could see neither the forest or the trees and needed to step away, for a long while, so that I didn't give up. Because I couldn't give it up. I was stuck, frustrated sick with that on-the-tip-of-my-tongue feeling of a book that dangled just out of reach. But I couldn't let go of it for good, but I had to let go for a while...before it got really, really bad.
Last week, I looked through those dusty, overstuffed accordion files and they breathed -- still living with the magic of story.
It's time to start again.