Love letter to literature: Part 2

I spent the day in a marathon editing session, incorporating my proofreader’s corrections into my manuscript in anticipation of sending it out tomorrow. My head hurts from staring at my computer screen–and probably from the Sharpie fumes I unintentionally inhaled while marking up the manuscript. I’m beginning to suspect that a book is a little like a kid. I wrote it, was completely in awe of what I had managed to create, worried no one else would find it as appealing as I did. Then I started editing, and now it’s becoming annoying. It’s always there, demanding attention, requiring love and effort in order to grow into the book I know it can be. If I already spent six months writing it, why do I have to spend an entire year adding commas and deciding whether the term “warlord” should be capitalized?

Don’t worry. I know the answer: Because I want it to be the best possible book it can be. I owe that to my readers. But I can know something and still resent it sometimes. Just like I can know my house won’t clean itself and the newspaper’s not going to put itself together each week. Knowing that something requires an awful lot of work doesn’t stop you from wishing you could wave a magic wand and find a polished manuscript sitting on the drafting table in the art room (where I do most of my work, when I’m not writing at Linnea’s).

The positive aspect of all this, the reason I titled this post “Love letter to literature: Part 2,” is that as I was re-reading my book I realized that there were a number of literary references I forgot to document in my previous post, “A love letter to literature.” In fact, I’d bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t managed to sneak a Mary Shelley reference into Scourge of the Righteous Haddock. And lo and behold, in the middle of sorting out the whole “warlord” question, I discovered my Mary Shelley tribute. It was almost as though my book was speaking back to me, reminding me that it’s my voice for a reason. I find that I have a really hard time describing this book to people, and I think the reason for that is the fact that it’s this bizarre mélange of things I love–books, people, ideas, words. It’s exactly the book you’d expect from someone who curses like a sailor and adores Little Women, from an atheist who loves celebrating Christmas, from a firm supporter in marriage equality who kinda views the institution of marriage as archaic and untenable, from a woman who hates Valentine’s Day but still gets goosebumps when Dumbledore asks “After all this time?” and Snape replies “Always.” It’s unapologetically absurd and completely sincere. And the idea of releasing it into this crazy, flawed world terrifies me. It scares me almost as badly as all those statistics about how young people aren’t reading and households are spending less per year on books than they have in the past. But apparently, it doesn’t scare me enough. Because I’m still spending every spare minute–and there aren’t so many of those as I would like–writing and editing and then editing some more. And talking my boyfriend’s ear off about every minute detail of my story.

So I’m going to post the literary references I forgot in my last post. All the books, poems, and authors I reference in Scourge of the Righteous Haddock that I forgot to list last week. But before I do that, I have to say that I’ve only just begun to realize how important community is to a writer. And not in terms of inspiring the story or providing models for characters or anything like that. Four people have read my book so far: Colin Rigley, Bryce Wilson, Ryan Miller (most of it, anyway), and Kathy Johnston. All of whom I met through my gig as managing editor at New Times. Colin was the news editor (and is now my long-suffering boyfriend), Bryce is one of the most talented movie reviewers I’ve had the privilege of reading (and editing), Ryan is the executive editor and person who I believe best understands my literary ambitions and dreams, and Kathy is the paper’s proofreader and contributor. It’s such an intimate thing, to read someone’s book. And, despite being a lifelong reader, I’m only just beginning to understand that. For these four busy people, all of whom have their own projects and careers, to read an unpublished novel from some nobody journalist and editor, well, it’s an act of faith. As an agnostic, I don’t tend to give much thought to the subject or importance of faith, but in this particular case, I’m so grateful for theirs. And that’s more sentimental than I like to be, but there it is. Hopefully none of them read this and give me a hard time about it.

And, finally, here are the additional works referenced in Scourge of the Righteous Haddock:

Percy Shelley

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

William Wordsworth

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Wuthering Heights by Emily Jane Brontë

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

J. R. R. Tolkien

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Comments

  1. Love this blog entry!

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