It’s happening. My new book of poetry, Look At Her, is at the printers!! CAN I GET A SQUEEE UP IN HERE?!!!
Yes, we made it! What a year. In a blog…here’s how we made it this far!
MANUSCRIPT – GO!
It all starts with a manuscript. A collection of up to 120 pages of poetry, mostly new, some older and super revised. And the guts to send it out to publishers – or your current publisher who you love. I’ll admit that this time around, I did consider sending out my manuscript to other publishers, but after the response I received from Marty Gervais, owner of Black Moss Press, my heart scooted right to him, and we agreed this book was meant to be published with the Black Moss Press.
It’s very scary sending out your work. Scary because the worst thing that can happen is no publisher wants to publish it. Or, scary because a publisher actually wants to publish it! Either way, you’ve got a certain unique road ahead of yourself. I’m grateful that Marty has stuck with me and my words over the years.
So, there we were. Two poets in a pod. And a manuscript.
MEETINGS & WRITING & WRITING & MEETINGS
When I Am That Woman (2013) was published, it was a mad rush. We had little time to edit, layout and design, and print. While that was just a different experience of publishing, I wanted this time around to be able to take our time. To meet, discuss, edit, arrange and rearrange the manuscript. I wanted time to play and laugh and dream and write. We made this happen! From September 2015 until May 2016, Marty and I met at various coffee shops/diners to dissect and create what would soon become Look At Her.
We went through each line of every poem. Marty offered his expertise and honest guidance. There are many poems that didn’t make the cut, and even more poems that were written brand-spankin’-new for this manuscript. It was invigorating saying ‘not yet’ to many poems I love and having the time and inspiration to write new pieces to fill gaps in the collection. And there were gaps. Indeed.
Over coffee, tea, poached eggs, after catching up on life and everything else, the poetry lifted off the page and into a spirit, an emotional force that gave us goosebumps. No matter what happens with this book after it’s out of our proverbial hands, it was our hands and hearts that crafted and molded it to be the incredible journey it represents.
The relationship between a writer and her editor, and in my (blessed) case, a writer and her publisher who is also her editor, is one that is life-affirming as much as it is life-changing. It’s like finding someone who makes you able to create the DNA of your baby before it’s born. Your editor is your scientist-doula, if you will! And before you know it, your manuscript does begin to feel like a child you will soon birth into the world.
I did much of my writing in my home either at the dining room table or in my very messy office. At times, there were tears as the words fell out of my fingertips. Sometimes I wrote with pen on paper, others I typed on a keyboard. I printed out versions so I could hold it all in my hands, lift it to my heart.
Come February, we were ready to physically lay out the order of the book. We went to a room with a large table and spread all the poems out. Previous to that, we had each come up with major themes in hopes that we could arrange the poems thematically in sections. There was no one theme that threaded the whole book.
We did what movie stars would do in a scene about this part of the process – we stood around the table, hands squeezing and stroking our chins, quiet and pensive. I used post-it notes to write the themes and slowly we began putting the poems into the theme sections we agreed upon.
Then I gathered everything up and took it home. Once again, I laid everything out – this time on my dining room table, and did my own thinking. I realized that there were still sections with small but noticeable gaps. So I wrote some more. It was a relief, in a way, having a theme to write to. I was able to focus and really dig deep into my thoughts/experiences on the theme.
Marty and I met again, and this time, we were able to give a final ‘yes’ to the order of the book. That was a wild moment. The two of us standing and looking over all the sections, knowing that we’d really done it. We’d come this far. I felt tears heating my eye corners as I gathered the manuscript one more time.
At home, I edited the table of contents and put everything where it needed to be.
Over breakfast, we made a list of titles. I had come with a short list. Marty had his ideas. We discussed each one, and found one that we both agreed upon. I left our meeting feeling excited…yet timid about it. I talked to four people whose opinions mean the world to me…and the more I tried to ‘sell’ the title, the more I knew it just wasn’t perfect.
So I sat in my office, head in my hands, staring at the list of titles. There was one, offered by Marty (how wise!) that my eyes kept scooting back to. And I went to the poem that it belonged with…and I asked myself if this poem was the poem that had a foundation-strength ability to represent the whole collection. I wrote the title out in handwriting. I spoke it out loud. I envisioned a cover, and pictured myself on a certain CBC radio show talking about the book with this title at the helm.
Then I called Marty back…he answered laughing, knowing what my phone call was about. He said, “You want to change the title?” I sort of laugh/cried and told him yes! Can we agree on ‘Look At Her’? He said yes. He loved it from the beginning.
And from the beginning, Marty urged me to write poetry that will change the world. I wrote with that intention…although that’s huge and scary and impossible, maybe. I’ve done my best and only ask that readers…look at her. All the ‘hers’ who fill the pages of the book.
POOF! IT’S A PROOF!
The hubby designed the cover, and a sweet logo that I’ve promptly made into stickers and fun swag because that’s one of the parts of this process that I *LOVE*. We sent the interior to Miss Karen, book designer extraordinaire. Within days, we had the first of 4 proofs. This means that I am able to see the book how it will look when it’s printed. Including titles, fonts, page numbers, section headers…and all the fun stuff that goes into getting the book ready for print.
Thank the goddesses my eyes found types they hadn’t seen previously! (It’s amazing how that happens, eh? We can read things over and over and not see typos!) I had to do small revisions on some of the poems so they would fit properly onto the page (a word document’s margins are different than the book layout margins!), and the fourth proof was perfect. Well…as perfect as a writer’s brain can (and must!) let it be! Yes, I wanted to continue to revise. Yes, there is one glaring name missing from my acknowledgements…oh shit!! But I will make it right…and there’s the feeling that I don’t want this ‘writing’ part to be over that covers me like skunk stink.
Alas, it is off. At the printers as I write this. By the end of the month, I will hold Look At Her in my hands. I will cry. And jump up and down. And probably scream. Laugh if you hear me, okay?
Since the proof went off in late June, I’ve been working hard on the business end of this process – updating my website, booking readings/events, looking for a venue/musicians for my book launch, creating and ordering swag, finishing my press kit and readying it for printing, making lists upon lists of folks to send my package (press kit and book) to for reviews/blurbs/etc..
I can tell you that the feeling you get in your guts, (deep in there where worry lives…and intuition too) when your first piece of writing is published or when your first book is published that gives voice to the voice that says: THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE THE WORLD AND WILL WIN ME AWARDS AND WILL SOMEHOW GET ME IN THE SAME ROOM AS TOM CRUISE…well, this voice never goes away. It gets louder with each publication. It strengthens all the writerly dreams, big and small.
So while I suggest (beg) and connect (plead) with people across Ontario to help me get my book ‘out there’, I’m also nursing the hope that this book will be the one. And I’m nervous and scared to share what I’ve written at the exact same time as I’m wobbly-legged excited to share what I’ve written. No matter what, I know in my heart this is a mighty collection, born from the deepness of my courage and the wisdom and guidance of Marty’s 45+ years as a publisher and editor. I know we did good. We did real good.
The business part is major, and I take it very seriously…too seriously sometimes. Such that I need to remind myself as I lay in bed before sleep pulls my eyes shut…that everything will be what it will be. I must trust the hard work, effort and passion that fuels ‘Looks At Her’. I must trust in spirit of this book that is a piece of ‘me’.
The hubby and the kids have been extraordinarily supportive…especially with my moving-desk – the binder and stack of paper that moves around the house as I plan things! I’m grateful for their patience and support. Love is grand, ain’t it!
Thanks for being on this journey with me, dear readers! On she goes…