Paradise Undone Not Quite Undone

Completed and ready for the 30-year anniversary of the Jonestown tragedy in 2008, my novel is still out in the world seeking a publisher. Despite an enthusiastic agent, everyone so far has said no, loud and resoundingly.

At this moment, nine years after I quit my job as an English professor to finish the book, and a full five years after it was completely revised and fit for the world’s eyes, all I have to show for Paradise Undone are a few honorable mentions and finalist rankings, which I’ve now also parceled out into stories and novellas.

Only one short section has been printed: a very dark monologue from the point of view of the Guyanese ambassador to the United States, who, in real life, survived three years after the massacre, only to kill his wife, child and himself in Washington DC, a 1981 casualty of Peoples Temple and its Jonestown manifestation. His wife, a Temple “political operative” named Paula Adams, had spied for Jim Jones, working to keep Jonestown informed of Guyanese governmental machinations, by any means necessary, including those transpiring in the bedroom. Adams was in Georgetown on November 18, 1978.

“Knowing What I Know,” published in Driftwood: A Literary Journal of Voices from Afar, a Bay Area publication in May 2006, was the last salvo on the page or on the Internet from Paradise Undone. It also netted me a second prize in the Abroad Writers Conference, held in Provence, France. Although I won for fiction, I chose to study screenwriting in France, working on a “treatment” of another Jonestown story. I still have this outline, after concluding that writing fiction was hard enough; why start a new genre at this late date?

As of September 2013, the book, in its many forms, has received about 90 “no’s,” thirty of them with the agent, and 60 all on my own.

I still haven’t given up hope, and at present, it’s under consideration at four literary contests. My last published book – my third – And Darkness Was Under His Feet: Stories Of A Family, had gone the rounds and received dozens of rejections as well. After putting it aside for a half-dozen years, a brand new book contest appeared on the horizon, and I sent it off, thinking, “Well, at least this particular press hasn’t rejected it – yet.” And I won! The book saw publication approximately ten years after it was finished. That means I have until 2018 before I call it quits.

(Annie Dawid, author of three volumes of fiction, taught last summer at the Taos Summer Writers Conference and will be teaching at the Castle Rock (Colorado) Writers Conference in November. Her other article in this edition of the jonestown report is A Long And Suffering People. Her previous articles in the jonestown report may be found here. She can be reached at