A funny thing happened on the way to my blog last Thursday. I got in a rotten foul mood and I went on a writer’s strike.
On second thought, that’s not so funny.
Thursday’s the day that I do my Friday post. It was raining heavily, and it was cold, as cold and rainy as it’s been since freaking January around here. So I made a cup of tea and I started loading up my pictures and dreading the moment when I’d have to start writing something down because I’ve been feeling like the world’s least appreciated writer lately (usual story: huge ego, no self-esteem) and there was a power surge and a loud clap of thunder and when the computer screen went blank I just said Oh, the hell with it.
I got the last round of edits for the Damn France Bookmanuscript this week, the copy edit; the one that catches every single flaw of grammar, typography, logic, consistency, and style. This copy editor is very, very persnickety and, truth to tell, by the third page a little testyabout my quirky punctuation and use of italics. She caught a lot of embarrassing mistakes (for instance, I wrote the name of Victorian lady traveler Lillias Campbell Davidson as Isabel Davidson, for some reason) but I could live without her snide notes: Use a semi-colon here, OK? And, Spell as in Webster’s OK? (I hate Webster’s Dictionary. I’m an old 1970s-era American Heritage girl myself.)
And, in the closing paragraph of her three-page cover letter describing my many many many writing sins, she writes: It’s too bad that the author didn’t think about typography the way a book designer does before she went so far with this project.
And: I can’t predict how the author will react to my suggestions. She must at least correct the errors: with matters of style, I conclude that this project will not be completely consistent.
First of all, the Damn France Book is a hand made book, just like When Wanderers Cease to Roam. The typography is unique, the design is all original, and the reading experience of the sum of its parts is totally unlike what a reader would find in a typical book-type-book. Which means that quirks and inconsistencies are part of the immediacy of my writing style (I’m very proud of having come up with this defense, by the way).
(But still. I must be one damn lousy writer after all. Don’t I have the copy editor’s notes to prove it?)
And Second of all, I don’t even understand that last shot. Of course I must correct the errors (depending on whether or not I agree with the copy editor’s definition of “error”) . But everything after the colon is incomprehensible to me, as a sentence. Although, by the time I get to the period, I’m wonder who the hell made her the New York Review of Books.
And the letter ends: But in the end, the clever text and charming illustrations make for a good book!
Bloomsbury has already paid me in full for the delivery of the manuscript (known as the advance), so whether or not the copy editor liked the Damn France Book is irrelevant, although it was nice of her to call it “clever’ and “charming”. Although I am not fooled. I know she’s just throwing me a bone.
So reading this letter, and getting a load of the thousands of “errors” in my manuscript, did not make me happy. I was not my usual perky, friendly, fun-loving, cute-as-a-button self. So that’s why there was no post on Friday. I was fed up with the whole writing biz, fed up with all the time and effort — years of sitting at my desk, growing old and cranky and disappointed — it takes to get stuff down on paper. Only to be told that all those words and ideas and paragraphs and lovingly crafted chapters are a mockery of consistency. Or something like that.
But friends, we all know that the Universe is a loving, wonderful presence.
Because just as I was about to give up on ever writing anything useful, beautiful, or merely informative ever again, which was last Thursday’s crisis (in case your mind has wandered about 500 words ago), I got another letter in the mail.
On Friday, I got a letter from an author whose books I adore, whose writing is sentence-by-sentence exquisite, whose work has been an inspiration to me. This is a writer I do not know personally, a writer whose cats I have never fed, whose Xmas card I have never painted a house portrait or specially-commissioned Winter scene for, a writer who’s never asked me to use my connections to get her close to Neil deGrasse Tyson. A writer who does not owe me a damn thing in the world.
And she read the exact same crap-fest of a manuscript as the copy editor did (above) and she wrote me a hand-lettered note with very kind comments about my writing…and she wrote me a dream-come-true blurb for my Damn France Book.
And I’m sorry, but I’m putting that beauteous blurb right on the front cover.
Note to new reader Dana: I know I told you that today’s post would be some tips on how to teach yourself to paint but I got side-tracked here. I’ll put that info up on Friday.
And the COUNTDOWN begins! 28 days until I’m in Seattle!
28 days from now on May 17 I’ll be at Wide World Books and Maps, in Seattle doing my talk about Questing for Creativity. I’ll be giving away some of my art note cards at each of my Seattle and Portland events, and I’d love it if all youse North Western types would stop by to visit.
(And now that I’ve re-read this post, I think that copy editor is right. Nobody uses more bold print than I. It does get kind of annoying.)
May 17 in Seattle at Wide World Books and Maps,4411 Wallingford Ave., in Seattle.
May 18 in Seattle, at the Teacup, 2128 Queen Anne Ave. N, for an early evening talk about creating a new American tea culture.
May 21 at the Langley Libraryon Whidbey Island, 104 2nd Street, for a morning workshop on how to make the most of your journal writing.
May 22, at Cannon Beach Book Co. , Cannon Beach OR from 12 – 2; and then to the Seaside Library (15 miles up the coast) from 3-4.
May 24, at Broadway Books, 1714 Northeast Broadway in Portland, OR at 7PM for a lovely evening get together — we’ll talk about creativity and travel and finding the true stuff you were meant to write.