My first book (called When Wanderers Cease to Roam, in case there are new readers today — Hi! by the way) was not edited. That happens sometimes: an editor buys your manuscript and then leaves the company shortly afterwards so when you hand in your finished manuscript nobody in the publishing house wants to touch it with a ten foot pole, because they don’t want to deal with someone else’s old stuff. There’s a name for this situation: it’s called being orphaned.
So I was an orphan when I handed in my manuscript for When Wanderers Cease to Roam. I never had editorial feedback on what I wrote. I got a proofreading edit (turns out that I was not consistent in the way I spelled traveler/traveller)and that was it. The book that was published was exactly the same as the manuscript.
Well. This go-round the editor who bought my Damn France Book has stayed at Bloomsbury. And she called me on Wednesday to tell me that she has finished her read/edit (that’s the term: read/edit) of the manuscript for the Damn France Book I turned in on January 4.
(Above: See how nice and tidy the Damn France Book is, now that it’s been written? For two years it’s been sprawled all over my two desks and pinned up on the bulletin board and stacked on the floor…now all my rough drafts and notes and sketches are filed, the two notebooks that I took to France with me can be put back in the bookcases, all the original art work is taped into place on all my page designs in the manuscript in the notebook. Nice.)
This is exciting. I’m getting edited!!! Someone smart and committed is reading the Damn France Book’s manuscript looking for problems in structure, pacing, language, voice, and thematic consistency. Which I really need, because although there isn’t a plot in the Damn France Book, there is an organizing principle, a premise that I elaborate on, through seven chapters of wandering around France, that has to come to a conclusion in chapter eight. And I digress a lot. There are a lot more words in the Damn France Book than there is in the Wanderersbook. So it’s a bit unwieldy. I know that through it all, I need to never let my reader go astray, no matter how off the topic I go. So I was anxious about what kind of author-induced blind spots, what sort of Vivian-esque bullshit an editor’s critical read/edit would uncover. I half-expected my editor, Kathy, to call with the news that I need to start over from page 4 to get it right. And I have to do it in 90 days.
But whew. Kathy called me and said that there weren’t any flaws bigger than a breadbox in the manuscript, nothing more than cosmetic patch ups in lay out or headings. Whew. I’m going to go into Bloomsbury’s offices in the Flatiron building on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Feb. 18 to meet with her and the art director to discuss her edit, re-doing the cover, and production issues.
That’s the tricky part of being an art journal writer instead of a pure word writer. Word writers can send a whole manuscript as an attachment to an email. They can do the edits without ever having to use an eraser, a pair of scissors, a new paintbrush, or tweezers. And then they can send it to the presses (which are probably in China) by hitting a send button. Wimpy word writers and their push-button word writing….
Us art journal writers have to haul around 13-pound manuscripts that are full of scotch tape, bulky watercolor paper, plastic sheet protectors, and cat hair. Every edit means literally ripping apart the page and gluing it back together again. And nobody gets their hands on the original art work until it’s time to ship it all by slow boat to China, during which voyage us art journal writers sweat it out, hoping that the boat doesn’t capsize or get hijacked by pirates. So far, my editor has only seen the full-color copy I xeroxed for her (197 pages @ 63 cents per: each color copy of my manuscript costs $124.11).
For all you word writers who have never seen an art journal manuscript, here’s what it looks like (it fills a 3 1/2-inch binder that believe me, is not cheap):
(See that slip of green paper on the cover? It’s a note to myself, a definition of life that I read somewhere and wrote down:
Life: A length of time marked by periodic changes of luck.
Words to live by.)
The yellow stickies on the edge of some of the pages are there to remind me that there’s something that I to fix on that page; the little yellow stickies on the bottom of every recto sheet are there so I can keep track of the page count. And I use those sheet protectors because that makes it easier to move pages around, and keeps the schmutz off the art work.
And also: It turns out that my manuscript is nine pages short of the 208 that I’m contracted for.
More cheese, anyone?