Auto Draft

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.

Ugh. Production.

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?

19 comments to How Publishing Really Works. Really.

  • Marina W

    It’s great seeing your new book in it’s embryonic stages, and having you share some of the joys and trials of getting it to print. Can’t wait for it to be published…but guess we’ll have to be patient.

    And even with that huge folder it is still short on pages?…who would have guessed?

    Thanks for sharing

  • Wow, that preview makes your book look so enticing – can’t wait to get my hands on the finished version!

  • Deborah

    Fill those nine pages with this blog! I always enjoy seeing the story behind the story.

    It’s exciting to see several of the paintings that you discussed in this blog in the recto-verso form. (or is it verso-recto?) I am totally oooohhh-ing over the path through the woods. That’s one I remember.

    Congratulations on reaching this milestone. Hope you’re popping open the champagne, or at least brewing up a special cup o’ tea (or a grilled cheese sandwich): you worked hard for this & you deserve to celebrate.

  • Beautiful art work, Vivian. I’m entranced by the miniature versions of the forest and that reflective water by the small stone house. What a strange and alternate universe that art journal writers live in. It seems to be infinitely more laborious–to have to paint each scene as well as write the words.

    Best of luck with your production meeting!

  • Jacquelyn

    my left coast brain is not quite fully awake yet….but my first thought as to the 9 more pages was the same as Deborah’s. Your cats could play a role in the unfolding story and creative process. I guess until the book is in front of us, it is difficult to separate the cardinals, champagne o meter, the cat’s window to the world from charcuteries, chateaus, cloches in gardens and cafes.
    Super quote. I love it!

  • Janet

    Just looking at this work in progress already puts me in France. I am so looking forward to your second book.

  • It’s fascinating to see the work in progress. My God, I cannot imagine the kind of focus and dedication it takes to produce a book such as yours. I can hardly wait to see the finished product.

  • Barbara

    You have truly opened our eyes to the world of publishing. I am savoring When Wanderers Cease To Roam and am now lingering in August, not wanting the book to end. Am I looking forward to the Damn France Book?
    Mais Oui :-)

  • I know we’re just seeing a teeny tiny version but it looks great. When can we put our orders in? Congratulations! Time for a good long rest or perhaps a trip to France.

  • JOAN

    Hopefully you can make up the 9 pages missing with some drawings of France? Seems that would be easier than trying to come up with 9 pages of words. But maybe that wouldn’t be consistent with the whole book. Thanks for the pre-birth preview of the book, labor pains and all. Hope you have a vision of what the next 9 pages will be. Can’t wait to see the finished book.

  • Coool, I love seeing it this way. I am so excited for this book to come out likely the only one I will buy this year not in e-format. I really admire this work especially now that I live in France. There is so much to see and experience here and I think this is such a unique way to connect people to this wonderful and wacky place.

    When can we expect it to be ready for purchase?

    Bon Courage,

  • Jan

    I’m recovering from cervical spine fusion..and am re-rereading my Wanderers book! It’s my New Year’s gift to read it again starting in January. What a great way to start the new year. I can’t wait for the DFB to be in my grubby little hands!

  • Cheryl

    it’s great of you to share this journey with us – how us would most of us ever know what goes into creating an art journal – or any book, for that matter.
    I keep my Wanderers book on my coffee table, with some others, and I always smile when I see my son-in-law gravitating to Wanderers. He’s a no-nonsense, practical kind of guy, but there’s something about your book that pulls him into a more sentimental, humorous, whimsical world.
    I can’t wait to own the new book!

  • Vivian, your book looks great – félicitations! Do you know what you want to put in the extra nine pages?

    As someone who lived in France (Paris and in the Alps near the border with Italy) and loves Normandy and the Langue d’Oc region, I’ve been wondering what my personal France is (say, the way you created Pawsylvania) – what it means to me. Then I began to wonder what “France” means to your readers.

    Thank you for your work (books, this blog, the way you live life) and can’t wait to see you in Seattle!

  • And I’m not the only one looking forward to you coming to Seattle. Nancy Pearl is too. From her Twitter: “So glad Vivian Swift’s coming to Seattle in May-When Wanderers Cease to Roam is one of my favorites-a real gem of a book. Check it out.”

  • NANCY PEARL ? Did someone say NANCY PEARL?
    Your visit to Seattle will be a great success. .

    Be sure and post on your blog your itinerary for us.
    Anyone living within 150 miles will want to come.
    Give us hint now, so we can plan.
    I, too, indulge myself a little at a time w/ WWCTR, so I can make the experience last. Every page is delightful. I will enjoy re-living the mud page again in March. Who knew we had 14 kinds of mud, and YOU could paint every one of them.?

  • I live in Portland, about 3 hours south (don’t know how many miles, though) and I’d definitely come up to Seattle to hear you! And bring a bunch of friends who’ve read and love your book.

  • Seeing your book in this form is fantastic. Particularly love the page with the chairs.

  • Sandy

    Oh Vivian I can’t wait to get my hands on My Copy!!

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