galley brave

This past week I sat down and read While He Was Away in galley form.

gallhyActually, I read it through for the second time, having read it through for the first time as an ARC—i.e., as the Advanced Reader Copy that my wonderful publisher Sourcebooks sends out for publicity purposes.  I don’t have many ARCs of my own (they are a precious commodity), and so instead of marking up the pages of my copy with pen or pencil, I used Post-It notes to flag changes I need/want/hope to make before the book really, truly, finally and for the last time goes to print.

In the end, that particular ARC looked like this.Arc 1  So many Post-Its, it could take wing and fly away in a strong wind.  Please note:  I would love to turn these images upright, but I don’t know how yet, and besides, this is kind of how this week of reading felt anyway.

Flagging pages like this took me back to the long, chilly spring when I was studying for my doctoral exams.  I passionately loved what what I studied—the books and articles on African-American Women Writers, Ethnicity in U.S. Literature, Cultural Criticism, Love and Sexuality in Women’s Fiction.  I lived in a heated whirl of Post-Its.

This time reading, however, it wasn’t passionate love I felt as much as a kind of mother-bearish-vigilance, which is, I suppose, love, too.  I didn’t want anybody (and by this I mean, ESPECIALLY MYSELF, my own limitations) to get between me and my cub.  I was watchful for sentiment, inconsistencies, purple prose, general glitches in grammar and punctuation.  To my mind, there were still a few issues—and commiserating with a few writer comrades, I learned that there are ALWAYS (or usually always) issues. Even at this stage of the journey, after being edited by the likes of my editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, who has the best pair of editorial eagle eyes that a writer could want.

So then I read through the galley and found a few more issues.  Just a few.  Sigh.galley/arc It was a long, hard, good week.  I faced my old enemies:  self-doubt and fear.  I called upon my old friends:  humility and tenacity.  Faith and hope, they paid a visit too.  And I’m wondering now if part of writing is saying . . . let it go.  Just let it go.  But when do I say that?  At what stage of the journey?

A couple of years ago, I heard the memoirist/poet Mary Karr speak at Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing.  I loved many things she said, but one thing I loved in particular was her comment:  “I am not so much a writer, as a rewriter.”

I agree with Ms. Karr.  For me, work isn’t so much about vision as it is about revision.  It’s about seeing again, in a new way. It can be scary, ripping apart and reconstructing a sentence or paragraph or chapter that I’d thought was tightly woven.  But it seems to be the only way I can do it (at least so far).  Still, I’m wondering about the letting go, the stopping.  Oh, there goes my cub, wandering off into the woods.  She will be all right.  She will thrive.

I suppose this applies to the way I live, too—to the way I love, parent, befriend, and move through the world?  I suppose, perhaps, it does?







5 Responses to “galley brave”

  1. Petra @ Safari Poet Says:

    I would use post-its as well. I have one with the date and where I bought the book in every book I’ve bought for the last year or so because I couldn’t stand the thought of writing in a book, but wanted to be able to know how long I’ve had the book like my dad. He dates everybody he has bought and I always thought it was cool to pick up a book and know the exact date he bought it.

    If you want, you can send the pictures to me and I’ll turn them around and send them back.


    You could tell me what type of computer (Windows or Mac) you own and I’ll explain how step by step. Just send me a email and let me know if you’d like my help.

    Good luck with your edits. I hope you’re cub thrives :-)

  2. KHS Says:

    Petra, I so appreciate your comment about your father. My dad did that as well–I still use his Roget’s Thesaurus, dated 1933. And while I love reading in e-format, one of the things that saddens me is that these latest libraries won’t bear the traces of our lives and those we love.

    Thank you for offering to turn the pictures around! I think I’ll leave them, because they do kind of reflect how I feel about revision–turning the world upside down and sideways. But it is a skill I need to learn! So maybe someday I will seek your advice. (I’m a Mac gal by the way.)

    Happy day to you.

  3. Petra @ Safari Poet Says:

    I love technology, but I’m not a fan of ebook and buy them only when the book isn’t available in print form. I understand the pros, but prefer the feel of a book in my hand and the simple joy of turning the page.

    If you have and want to use the Multi Touch TrackPad, check out this video at the 1:59 mark:

    Or you can open the picture in preview, click “Tools”, then look for “Rotate right” or “Rotate left” depending on the picture.

    Happy day right back at you and looking forward to hearing more about When He Was Away :-)

  4. KHS Says:

    Love the tips! Thank you so much, Petra. It DOES take a village, doesn’t it?

  5. melissa Says:

    It’s so exciting to watch the book take shape. What you say about revision is so true–who was it who said: “all writing is rewriting”? My biggest challenge as an aspiring writer is deciding when something is complete, done, finished. I always thought that if I could get a piece in print, I’d be able to let it go. But here you are, right up to the wire, making changes, tearing apart sentences. How does one ever finish anything?

    Another one of my favorite quotes, also of uncertain provenance: a poem is never completed, but only abandoned in despair.

    That’s far too discouraging, though. Can something be abandoned in hope?

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