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Behind the Curtain: A Novel's Publication Schedule

March 2016. Mark your calendars. Okay, plan on marking your calendars. I haven't gotten around to filling in important 2015 dates, much less thirteen months from now.  

Well, there are a few I've inked in. A series of deadlines, a set of anticipated events, a dream that's fast becoming a series of To-Dos, as REMEMBERING walks this path toward publication.


When I tell people that March 2016 is the publication date, most—unless they've gone through the process already—look at me with eyes wide and mouths agape. That long? they exclaim. Why the delay?


Oh, there's no delay. In fact, REMEMBERING is a bit rushed. Most novels run on an eighteen-months-from-contract-signing-to-publication calendar. Mine's about fifteen. And I'm grateful for each month, week, day between now and launch. Here's a glimpse of what's happening, what will happen, and what I need to make happen, in the time I have:


Approximate Manuscript Schedule:

First revision back to editor: January 26, 2015

Next edits to me: February 6, 2015

Final ms due: March 20, 2015

Cover for Author Review: probably Feb or March 2015

Copyedits for Author Review: April 13, 2015

Reading Group Guide & Author Q&A: April 27, 2015

ARCs** printed: Early June 2015

Synopsis for Sales: July 1, 2015

2nd pages for Author Review: Late September 2015

Blurbs due: Mid-October 2015

Final Closes to Printer: November 2015

**ARCs stands for Advance Reading Copies, which are sent to reviewers and other publicity/marketing contacts several months before the book is published. From these, cover and promotional blurbs are generated.


Last Thursday, five days ahead of deadline, I submitted my first round of edits. I stand back, a bit trembly and astonished at how many story changes I've made in these five weeks. Entire chapters eliminated; a character killed off; another just erased, as if he'd never existed; material I wrote a couple of years ago and then deleted—now revived, revised, restored. Names changed, plot points altered. And the revising is not over. A couple of weeks to breathe, to return to TUI, before I receive the next round from my editor. By sometime mid-April, when the copyedits are complete and I've submitted a Reading Group Guide and an Author Q&A (a little shiver of delight!), I'll be released to think about other work.


Kinda sorta.


In late fall, I'll begin working with my publisher's publicist on planning the book's "launch"—a publishing term I love: launch means the book's release. I get this visual of a rocket lifting into the sky from a platform of flames, of confetti tossed from the window of a high rise, of a great bird spreading its wings and rising on a current of air. I love the idea of REMEMBERING launching into the world.


What I don't love is the idea of a launch party. I'm an introvert. I hate parties. Do I have to have one? Who's going to pay for it? What will I wear? What if no one comes? Would you bring your dog so I have someone to talk to? These are the things I worry about at 3 a.m.


But of course, that promotion work begins well before next fall. It's work I must do, work my agent and I will map out together. It's what I'm most dreading and most excited about. Self-promotion gives me the heebie-jeebies—it embarrasses me terribly—but it must be done. The learning curve will be steep, and my challenge is to find ways to make it thoughtful, compelling, inclusive, fun and sustainable. What excites me is the possibility of engaging with readers, but of course that won't happen until I actually have some. Sigh. For the time being, I soak in and glean wisdom from writers in a couple of Facebook groups who are in the same stage of publication or a few steps ahead; arm myself with back issues of Poets and Writers, Midge Raymond's excellent Everyday Book Marketing, and Dan Blank's weekly newsletter, and scribble out must-dos and wish-lists, budgets and bios.


I remind myself what a gift I've been given—this hand on my shoulder that says, "We believe enough in this book that we're taking it out into the world." This opportunity to realize a dream.


I don't have to have a launch party. But if I do, you're all invited!

You write because you need to write, or because you hope someone will listen or because writing will mend something broken inside you or bring something back to life.” ― Joanne Harris, Blackberry Wine

One month, four drafts, 1300 pages: First Round Edits

An Enchanted Life

An enchanted life has many moments when the heart is overwhelmed with beauty and the imagination is electrified by some haunting quality in the world or by a spirit or voice speaking from deep within a thing, a place, or a person. ~ H.L. Mencken  

Oh great, here comes AFPGO: Another Fucking Personal Growth Opportunity. ~ Unknown


About a mile into a run last week, I stopped. Just stopped. I couldn't. There are times when my body needs a break from running and I try to listen. I try not to judge. I walked home with tightness in my chest and heaviness in my limbs. I thought, "I'll just swim laps at nine." Nine came and I lowered myself into a hot bath. That was the water I needed, water like the warmth of the womb. I needed to be comforted, not challenged. I needed to soak, before I sank. I was utterly overwhelmed.


The slow creep of mud that finally reached my mental shoes, stopping me in my tracks—this weird blend of acedia and agitation—wasn't a surprise; I'd felt it coming. It started, perhaps, a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself in the midst of a tremendous online chorus of writers, some of whom are my literary heroes. I was amazed and delighted to have been included in their ranks. Their voices swelled and rose in a mighty roar of energy and affirmation that took my breath away. I found my way through the crowd to quieter corners and rooms down the hall, making personal connections with a few voices that reached me with calm clarity, but I couldn't shake the feeling that somehow I didn't belong there, that these writers, these thousands, were accomplished and ambitious in ways that are completely foreign to me, perched as I am on this almost-island, in my quiet sunroom, spinning my modest tales that no one would mistake for great literature or groundbreaking creative non-fiction.


Time to retreat. I stopped reading the bios that made me feel so woefully inadequate, I withdrew from conversations that sped past faster than I could read or type, reminding myself that time spent wishing I was more, did more, risked more, reaped more, was time spent not doing the one thing that mattered most: writing.


I returned to my keyboard and to my mind, wrote a flash fiction piece, finished the first draft of short story, and began researching literary journals to submit each. I did yoga on the beach, I hiked, I walked. I read a volume of beautiful poetry. I filled two boxes for Goodwill, because when I get like this, I want to lighten all my burdens, I want to clean out, get rid of, eliminate, discard, set myself free.


But still the disquiet remained. A torpor dulled my sense of possibility and joy, sitting heavy in my core, while anxiety beat a woodpecker's refrain against my heart. I knew I hadn't gone far enough in seeking the peace that would guide me to back into the light.


When the interwebs cease to be a source of information, of playfulness, of social release and friendship, I know that something is happening inside of me that bears watching. I know it's time to be careful, that the world is about to swallow me with noise. When I agitate instead of participate, it's time to shut it all down and walk away.


When I begin to despair that my writing doesn't stack up and that my future will never brush the dizzying heights of those in my online communities, it's time to recommit myself to the page.


Echoing a remark a writer friend made here recently, it's possible to read too much about and into the writing and publishing process. It's possible to fill your mind with so much advice on craft, so many dos and dont's of seeking publication, that you get mired down and find yourself unable to move forward.


It's possible to let the world get too loud.


I shared a draft of my query letter on a limited-public board last week, seeking critiques from fellow writers. One commented that my query was too perfect, too textbook. I'd felt the same, so the comment didn't sting, it confirmed. It came as a relief. I was right. In trying so hard to adhere to all the pro tips, I'd lost my voice. I rewrote it (again. again. again.) and I feel there's more of me in there, but it's not yet where it needs to be.


Until I can find my stride and run again, I'm deleting those writers' tips blog posts that get routed to my inbox. Until I feel safe in myself again, I'm staying away from the social media where I feel vulnerable.


I want to be overwhelmed with beauty. I want to be electrified by some haunting quality in the world or by a spirit or voice speaking from deep within. These happen only in two places for me: outside and on the page. That's where you'll find me, in case you're wondering where I've gone off to ...



ETA: A couple of wonderful articles have made their way into my life in the week since I first published this post. Just had to share:

The Secrets of the Creative Brain by Nancy Andreasan, for The Atlantic

Why Every Story You Write is a Guaranteed Failure by K.M. Weiland, on her eponymous blog


2014-06-28 16.41.42-2







The In-Between Times

Last week I saw a man walk into the side of building. He was so intent on the text he was composing on his smartphone that he failed to notice the four-story brick structure in his path. The collision entered this man's present sphere for the briefest of moments. He glanced up, a "What the hell?" look of irritation on his face, then skirted the corner of the building, his eyes back on the phone's screen, thumbs dancing across the miniature keyboard. It was the first time I've witnessed a texter collide with an inanimate object. This being Seattle, where smartphones are as ubiquitous as coffee shops and rain, I've done my fair share of dodging texting pedestrians on sidewalks, in grocery stores, in bus aisles, of swerving around texting cyclists on bike paths, and of distancing myself from texting drivers, who frankly scare the shit out of me. (Texting or talking on a handheld phone while driving is a primary offense in Washington state, by the way. So if you do it, I hope like hell you score yourself a big fat ticket and STOP doing it, before you kill someone).

But the hapless fool I saw last week, the one who couldn't tell a building from a bank of fog, got me thinking. I read recently an article in The New York Times about combatting social media fatigue. The gist of the article- using social media to manage social media- is worthy of a semester-long Social Psychology course. I won't even try to tackle the irony of Twitfeed or Freedom. Mostly because I plan to download these applications so I can get some work done.

But a quote from the article touched a chord in me, a chord that resonated when I looked up to see Mr. Text stub the toes of his Vans on a Seattle low-rise: “The in-between times are important,” (said Graham Hill, 40, the founder of the Web site TreeHugger and the design contest LifeEdited), referring to life’s idle moments, like standing in line at the bank or taking a taxi, “times when you should be checking in with yourself instead of trying to be somewhere you’re not.”

The In-Between Times. It's such a beautiful notion. All the spare moments of our lives when we are waiting for the next moment, the brief interludes when we have the opportunity to simply be. Standing at an intersection waiting for the light to change, stopped in line at the grocery store, paused at the counter of Cafe Vita as our grande Americano is being made...moments that we could leave alone, either to drift away on our own thoughts, or to indulge in a soak of the world around us, eavesdropping, observing, noticing. The indulgence of awareness.

Yet, we are becoming compulsive fillers of the in-between times, unable for a moment to lose our connection with the virtual world. I see couples walking down a sidewalk, both engaged, not with each other, but with their phones; parents pushing a stroller around Green Lake, eyes not on the child before them or on the beautiful scenery around them, but straight down, on the screen they hold in one hand as they push the stroller with the other. I scroll past Facebook and Twitter updates of friends' whereabouts and I wonder if broadcasting where they are is more enjoyable than simply being there.

I struggle with the In-Between Times, too. Not so much the brief moments. I don't (yet) have a smartphone, so I can walk down a sidewalk, wait for a light to change, dawdle while on hold, brush my teeth, or pet the cat without thumbing a screen.

My challenge is sitting still and not multi-tasking, not filling the present time with multiple In-Between moments. Mealtimes are the worst. Because of our divergent schedules, I eat most of my meals without Brendan. I sit at the table, fork in one hand, newspaper or magazine in the other, NPR on in the background. I ingest food, words, and broadcast in a single mouthful, without taking full pleasure or nourishment from any of them.

I am the worst companion with whom to enjoy a movie rental. I'm usually up and about, watering plants, dusting, folding laundry; or sitting, but reading the paper, doing a crossword puzzle, or uploading and organizing music CDs onto my external hard drive-my new favorite task. How many times have we had to rewind a scene, or start a movie from the beginning because I missed too much to follow the story's thread? It drives Brendan to distraction. Problem is, if I do sit still to watch something, I fall asleep inside of twenty minutes.

And I will cop to the horrendous habit of listening to public radio while doing my yoga practice.

Early one morning this week I sat on the steps in front of our apartment complex. I was waiting for a colleague to collect me for day's visit to vineyards in eastern Washington. He gave me a fifteen minute window during which to expect him. Fifteen whole minutes -  I could have read most of the New York Times Business section, listened to a Planet Money podcast (even accomplished both at the same time). I could have made a to-do list for home and office, updated my calender... but instead I just sat there. I thought, I watched what happens on my street at 6:15 a.m. (turns out, not much -- a few cats prowling, dog-walkers and joggers eyeing me warily - I mean, who sits and does nothing - it's unsettling, right?). It wasn't easy to sit still. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was wasting time. Until about ten minutes into my forced quietude. Then I relaxed. It felt so good to be peaceful, to have an In-Between Time completely to myself.

I'm experimenting with awareness at lunch. I take my brown bag down to the Ship Canal, and set aside the paper, book, or magazine while I eat. There is so much to look at and listen to. Conversations and characters float all around me - rich fodder for writing is my reward for paying attention.  The sun glints off the canal, the wind tosses the leaves of the poplar trees, boats approach the Fremont Bridge, ducks, geese, and seagulls quarrel over crumbs, dogs strain at their leashes as they comb the Burke-Gilman trail for smells and scraps. I taste my food and I feel my insides relax, from my brain to my toes.

I will work harder on honoring my present moments and leaving alone the In-Between Times. I'll switch off the internet when I am writing (though I may need to download Freedom to keep me honest); I'll eat my food first, then consume the news; maybe I'll do something really outrageous, like sit on a bench at Sunset Hill and look out at Shilshole Bay. That's it. No book, no iPod, no conversation. I'll just sit still and have an In-Between Moment that will become a Full-On Moment if I let it.

Probably won't be able to sit still and watch that movie without falling asleep, however.