Jul 03

The 32 Drawings

wwvhdrawingsSheila Kennedy's 32 drawings for my next book were ready Thursday and we met at a coffee shop and when I suggested a change on one drawing Sheila right there took her pen and drew in a few wonderful lines that both snared and reproduced reality, and changed everything. I marveled at her skill and at the way her practiced eye must see the essential in every material thing, in every shape and being. Rarely do I get to see artists besides writers in the act of creation. The word "awesome" was really warranted. I brought the drawings home and admired them and the vastness of her achievement all at once. And was amazed that it was my text and initiative that helped bring them into the world. Watching the artist at work helped me realize that the act of creation is just as awesome when writers do it -- common as it seems to those of us who write.
Jun 21

I Could Vacation on This Money, Or I Could Print a Book

I signed the contract, wrote the check, and mailed it at the P.O. today. Asked the clerk for a pretty stamp. For good luck. I'm in high-risk territory here. If I do this wrong, if I'm deceiving myself. . . But if I do this right . . .

This is a self-publishing project: an illustrated little inspirational book for women. The fantastic drawings by Sheila Kennedy will make the book of work of art. This project has long roots. At a printery I'd seen adorable little books, like children's books, except they were for adults; loved the shape and size. Then in my files I found the list, 31 lines, that would become the text. I'd written it to restore myself after a rough patch. Re-reading it I was surprised it was still "alive." I thought, this could help somebody else. My Inner Critic had a field day:

*who will read this? *you, writing inspirational stuff? *you want to kill your reputation this will do it! *you really want to embarrass yourself! *it will cost seeerious money! *where will you find an illustrator? *what qualifies you to try to inspire people? *why isn't it a book of poems? *you are crazy!

But I shut up my Critic (he looks and sounds like Christopher Hitchens). It wasn't easy. It was like the Puritans in old Plimoth: If somebody in town went nuts or on a bender, they dragged him to his house, tossed him in and then nailed the door shut, to let him cool off. Just in the last two weeks I first spoke of the idea to other writers. I explained the concept or brought them the text, nervously asking, am I crazy?

Finding the illustrator was easy; I was led to her. I didn't seek design and printing estimates; knowing its likely price and what I wanted, I asked for it and signed. My publishing experience, all of it, came in very handy. (I'm the kind who'll park the car in the first empty space and walk, rather than keep circling to find one closer to the entrance.) And, gritting my teeth, sent the check today.

Several streams had run together: the business course that said manifesting "crazy" ideas was the sanest thing to do. My editing of faith-based book manuscripts, which I found strangely moving although I am not religious. Karmic issues I won't go into. The "now or never" bit. The "leap and the net will appear"/"walk by faith, not by sight" bit. (Did it before, risking much more than I am now.) The "better to regret what you did do than what you didn't do." The "dare you dare you, double-dog dare you." The "I could vacation on this money or I could make this book. I'll make the book."

Apr 25

New Book & Nobel

Arrived today: the first copy of Island Universe; beautiful, especially the cover painting. More copies will follow. Two hours it took to get my eyes off of it. A new book is like a new baby.

News I loved: Doris Lessing wins the Nobel Prize. On TV she said of her youthful self, "Nothing could stop me. . . ." For 25 years I have admired her writing, and her shamelessness -- now copied by everybody, and not unusual, but there was a time when a woman writer should have felt ashamed. She changed that. This past year read the five Martha Quest novels in order: Martha Quest, A Proper Marriage, A Ripple from the Storm, Landlocked, and The Four-Gated City. (Ordered used copies; A Ripple was especially hard to get -- the Washington University Library *didn't have* the middle three novels; now there's a real occasion for shame!) Then The Golden Notebook. Martha's apartments, her political meetings, her nights of drinking and dancing, her jobs and quandaries were all enthrallingly real. The NYTBR tells me Jonathan so-and-so and Don whatsis are the great writers, & I just have to smile.

I want to be like Doris Lessing and publish a new book every two years until I'm 87. She would say I should have done that all along.