Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Writer as Basket Case

My esteemed fellows in Inkpottery are writing beautiful posts that thoughtfully plumb the depths of lovely writing metaphors--this is the sort of thing they do, after all. Meanwhile I have spent the last week cleaning up after an extremely sick little boy. There are all sorts of metaphors I could plumb here, and all sorts of in depth descriptions I could give you about the things I have spent my mornings and evenings cleaning up--for I am a writer, after all, and this is the sort of thing I do--but I do so want to keep my job. So I'll just leave it to your ample, writerly imaginations.

I'm in the process of moving and trying to get a house on the market in the moments when I'm not cleaning up various disgusting substances, and I'm sure there are metaphors to be found in the layers of stuff in the basement, in the pieces of toys from homeowners past found behind radiators, in the storage containers full of things that each must be taken out and looked it and remembered and examined: You were something I acquired once, something I kept once, something that has sat here in these giant plastic containers because at one point in my life I could not let go of you. And now, now that I have had a little more time away from you, now that so much has passed, what am I going to do with you now?

On second thought, there's no metaphor there.

I have sitting in my in box an editorial letter for my latest book. Writers do so enjoy bragging about the length of their editorial letters--Oh yeah, well, mine was fourteen pages! And of course they are always single-spaced. This is the important detail. This is the one that really puts into focus the absurdity of the length. Well, I have now won this conversation for all of eternity. Mine is twenty-one pages. Single-spaced. Take that, Koertge. So after the hurly-burly has been cleaned up from my floor, I will be taking out bits of my book, looking at them, remembering, and examining. And, as miserable as the process can be, it beats preschool effluvium.


  1. Fourteen page letters from your editor??? Twenty-one pages????? Well here's bragging for you--mine sends one cryptic paragraph, maybe two via email and usually full of typos. But he is the best editor I have ever had, and I lament his retirement every single day. Of course the three hour, two martini lunches were when we were most productive, but even then most of the time was spent waxing about the "good-old days" of publishing.... I'd do a book with him for no advance and no royalty in a heartbeat if he come out of hiding.

    I think I'd crawl under a hole and never write again with a twenty-one page letter.

    Good luck with the house stuff and with the sick child, Anne, and with that letter. May all be better soon.

  2. Well. That's long! But I understand from Leonard Marcus's biography that Ursula Nordstrom used to write even longer letters, and routinely. Which fact may not comfort you...

    Nancy Werlin

  3. Holy cow. Good luck, dear.

    Lisa--my old editor was trained and mentored by your old editor but the martini lunch didn't make it into her editor's tool kit. She's the person who first got me to eat oysters, though.

  4. Anne, keep thinking "it's a new book. She wants me. She wants me." Wow - 21 pages. She really likes this book. I got edits back a few years ago and used the excuse of my knee surgery to put off final decisions. Until my editor finally called and said enough. There is indeed a writing metaphor in packing up and throwing out. Horrid process, but so great when it's over. Like taxes. You go, girl.

  5. What you need is a mop and a martini, one of which I will bring to the residency.

  6. Ron, bring the latter! Straight up with extra olives, please...

  7. That editor should have to come to your house and stand by your desk while you go through the letter, feeding you sips of Sprite and washing out the bucket after you hurl.

  8. "Preschool Effluvium" would be such a great band name!