The rejections came by return mail. To console herself, Morris would reread her manuscript. "I would get that lift of spirit when you know that you have read something good, whether it is yours or someone else's."
"A very negative letter, a critical letter, a rather scathing letter" from an agent nearly leveled her.
But before giving up entirely on "Vanished," she sent eight last letters to agents.
"Of the eight letters, I got one negative response, one I didn't hear from, and six were positive," Morris said. "It wasn't a new query letter and it wasn't a new book. It was as if I had been pushed out of a plane somewhere and landed on my feet."
Morris placed her book with Jean V. Naggar, the agent for, among other writers, Jean M. Auel. "She was someone who liked something obviously offbeat," Morris said. In short order, Naggar sold the book to Viking.
"It seemed unreal," Morris said. "It seemed a very fragile thing. I would not have been a bit surprised if a phone call had come saying it was all a big mistake."
"Vanished" earned largely dazzling reviews when it came out in 1988, as well as nominations for the National Book and the PEN Faulkner Awards. "I think Viking was as surprised as I was when that happened," Morris said.
Similar accolades greeted "A Dangerous Woman." The New Yorker, for example, called it "a tour de force."
Morris can laugh, now, at how when "the first good review came in on 'Vanished,' " she thought that would be enough to satisfy her. But then she began to get greedy, devouring every review. "I quickly forgot all my little rules, like, well, it doesn't really matter what the review says because you got it published."
Still, Morris kept a cool head. As soon as "Vanished" was sold, she listened to "that part of me that respected what I did," and began writing "A Dangerous Woman." The praise for her writing was well and good, she said, but "after 40-something years of being completely invisible, it didn't go to my head. I knew exactly who I was."
Who she was was a writer attracted to "the darker side, the eccentric side, the queer side" of the human character. Who she was was a writer whose faith in herself withstood a "cushion of failure" from editors and publishers. And who she was was a wife and mother who had real life to keep her humble.
As she spoke, the clothes dryer hummed steadily in the background. "They still expect me to match their socks," she said.