Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writerly Limbo

K has had the manuscript for over 2 weeks now, and still not a peep. The first week I was fine. The second week was harder, because I knew that she was probably in the process of reading it, but I was determined to be patient. This week it is taking all of my willpower not to pester her. Literally. I have no will to fend off sweets or resolve to keep my kitchen floors clean. I have eaten almost an entire raspberry sour cream pie and there’s a heap of dirty dishes in my sink and my kid is starting to smell funny. All my energy is being used to restrain me from emailing K (or even worse, calling her) and saying plaintively, “So, you read the book yet? What do you think? Huh? Do you like it? Do you think you could sell it? Huh? Do you? Do you?” If I lived in New York I’d be pacing outside her building right now.

She’d better get back to me soon, is all I’m saying.

In the meantime, I've heard from a few friends I sent the book to, all sunny, positive reviews and pats on the back. Even from my super smart literary friends, which feels wonderful but a bit suspicious. These are your friends, the little voice in the back of my brain whispers. They love you. They’re obligated to love your book the way a mother loves her ugly baby.

So I discussed the first half of the book on the phone with Cali, former Boise State M.F.A. alum and confidante. Cali generally speaks her mind, which I’ve always found refreshing. I had no doubt that if she found my baby ugly, she would just come out and tell me. We sat with the document open in front of our respective computer screens 2636 miles apart, and I took a deep breath and prepared to examine the warts.

“Okay,” Cali said, “page 19. I really had a problem here.”

Here it was. The truth. I prayed earnestly that I would have the capacity to fix whatever the problem was. I prayed I wouldn’t go crazy in the process. I prayed that I wouldn’t end up on my patio making a bonfire out of the whole darn novel.

“I want more,” she said.

This, nine times out of ten, turned out to be Cali’s request. More description. More inner narrative. More explanation.

Phew. Sure, I can do MORE. I just cut 25 pages from the novel before I sent it to K. It looks like a skinny kid to me anyway. So I am back to work, writing more, filling out the bare places, and falling in love with my story all over again.

All the while waiting, in this strange writerly limbo, for word from K.