Fly Away, Little Words!
In the book (Lulu’s journal) within my book (Venus on Mars), the words keep escaping the pages and flying all over the place. Now my actual words are taking a trip on their own. Last week I sent them off to professional editor Carolyn Fireside in New York, who comes highly recommended; I’ve hired her to shepherd(ess?) my novel to its excellent completion.
It was hard to let go. It was not just the time it took to print out all 300 pages, not even having to run to Office Depot and buy new printer ink mid-way through the print-out. It was not having to rummage through the garage in search of a box that would fit the pages, or the packaging, taping, addressing it all and then driving it to the post office.
It was the end of my solitary nurturing. Taking care of my words has been my job for the past two years and I’m proud of how they’ve grown and matured to the point that they can stand on their own. All the little verbs and nouns have learned how to anchor a sentence, while the adjectives and adverbs grace the words around them with detail, color and pizazz. Properly placed conjunctions, pronouns and exclamations shape and blend the entire combination of words, phrases and punctuation into a readable and meaningful whole.
All mine, all leaving me.
Even so, on my way back from the post office, I felt a huge burden lifted. I’m trying to remember how I felt, driving down Ocean Avenue, the sunroof open; I imagine that I stuck my hand up through the sunroof , index finger pointing into the (that day) clear blue San Francisco sky, shouting “woohoo!” Something energetic playing on the car radio. But then these are just words I’ve made up; I’m not sure what really happened. I just remember the relief, the tranquility and welcome silence inside my brain that had been so busy, so stressed, so geared toward completion.
This week, I’ve sent my words out to four “volunteer” readers, a truly impressive group.
Antoinette Beiser, Lowell Observatory librarian/archivist, who was an incredible help to me when I visited the observatory to research its history and has continued to send me any relevant info that comes across her desk.
Bill Green, retired director of the Image Processing Lab at JPL, who met met with me while I was researching there and added his personal reminiscences to the facts I dug out of the JPL archive. We went through an earthquake together that day and have kept in touch – his grandson is a cinema major at SFSU, where I teach.
Writer/editor Harriet Ellenberger, a friend from my long-ago radical feminist days in Charlotte – we were part of an intense group of women who plotted to change the world – and succeeded in some ways. I’d lost track of her, but recently we’ve reconnected via Linkedin.
And Al Sinerco, man of many talents – musician, ceramicist, multimedia artist – and fellow geek who is reading my manuscript on his new iPad.
Many, many, many thanks and big, huge shoutouts to them all.
I know it’s not over, but now that I’m past the initial separation anxiety, I’m pleased to have my words resting in other people’s hands, people who are qualified to encourage my words to take the next step, and then the next. Eventually my words will return to my nest for rewrites; some may be lost forever, while new ones take their place. In editing, it’s all about the package, not its individual parts.
Without my words, I’m free. I can work out first thing in the morning instead of hovering over my words, trying to decide whether I might improve them. I can water the garden, re-pot my root-bound house plants, play with feral cats who wander into the kitchen. Isn’t this the way life is supposed to be lived? Without words?
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