Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three weeks ago I signed with MIRA to publish two books. The news sent me over the moon. The very day the decision was made my lovely editor, Erika Imranyi, called me and we talked about the story; she gave me some editorial direction, things she thought needed tweaking. But mostly she was so complimentary of the writing and so enthusiastic that I knew I'd landed in the right place. What struck me during our conversation was that all of what she said had substance and meaning, even the good stuff. Letting someone know what works can educate them too. She offered around three or four suggestions for tweaking that I consider major. I wrote them down. The next day, I got an email from my fabulous agent, Barbara Poelle, and among other things it listed the schedule of deadlines for each book. I looked at it and felt like a professional, but when I tried to recover my usual focus, the focus I'd had only hours before, I couldn't do it.

[caption id="attachment_815" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Artfully displayed things from Emily Bronte's Desk"][/caption]

My head was full of change, not only the changes Erika suggested for the manuscript, but the huge alteration in my life that was shaping itself out of an opening and fantastic opportunity. I thought how quickly the status quo can change. But that’s how life is. Adaptation is key and it’s easier to maintain balance if you can train yourself to live in the present moment. I strive to do that. But it’s impossible in the big moments of life, I think. At times like these, it’s best to let go, to let the current sweep you along and trust you’ll recover your wits.

I wanted to go to work on my edits, but in those first days after receiving my news, I couldn’t settle. I kept wandering out to the garden. I drove to the nursery. I even went clothes shopping which I don't enjoy much. I cleaned house (I don't enjoy that either!) and thought: I don’t have time for this. Every time I was in one place, I would think I should be in another. I didn't sleep well. Then it began to dawn on me what the trouble was. I wasn’t letting go. Some perverse need to cling to the life plan that was in place until word of this miracle arrived refused to let the new current take me. I didn't trust that even in the midst of so much confusion, the melange of emotion, caught in the thrill of it all, I was in the right place. I love this quote from Joseph Campbell: “You must be willing to get rid of the life you planned so as to have the life you’ve been waiting for.”

I not only love it, I believe it. It makes sense to me. So now I have to walk my talk. I have to let go.

[caption id="attachment_816" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Not so artfully displayed things on my desk."][/caption]

To that end, a few days ago I finally sat down and opened Erika’s file, the one where she has put her editorial notes in the margins, and taking a deep breath, I began the process of implementing her suggestions. And as I worked, the welter of emotion returned. I am elated to have her fresh, clear-eyed direction. Her care comes through every comment, but at one point, my hands stilled on the keyboard and I worriedly thought, This isn’t only my story now. Not in the way it was before and it never will be again. Of course, the professional writer in me knows it’ll be a better story, but the mother hen part says, Oh, dear! I remember that I briefly and wildly considered not enrolling my children in kindergarten, too. As if I could have kept them from venturing into the world, as if I would have even wanted to! I don’t know what that is, the yearning to hold your creations close, while at the same time, you’re eagerly flinging them out there, praying someone will notice and want to share them with you.

This is what I understand now after having gone through a seemingly endless query process in search of the right agent who would then pair me with the right editor: that when a professional in either capacity suggests they weren't sufficiently compelled by the story to take it on, be grateful. Because no matter how flawless your manuscript is, no matter how well-told the story, if your partners, in this case your agent and editor, don't love it as much as you do, they can't help you. It isn't personal; it isn't an indictment against your ability. It's just the facts as hard as they can be to swallow. As I sit every day reading and revising and trying to maintain a fresh perspective of my own work that I've read countless times, I know it is an act of love, that it's love that fuels my determination, that love is why I have persisted, why I won't give up. But what of Barbara and Erika and their commitment? I mean it's easy to love your own child. But someone else's? And not just one someone else's but several.

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