Über-awesomeness alert: If you’re in a hurry, skip to the last paragraph and get a free cheap thrill.
Recently, I finished a poetry manuscript I’ve been working on for years, and sent it to a publisher during their open submission period. I’m throwing my hat in the ring with who knows how many other writers, but it’s a fantastic feeling just to get a book ready for publication. Something is there that wasn’t!
Still, no significant journey is totally smooth and, after being sidetracked for years (and for good reasons like having kids), my home stretch had some roadblocks. “How badly do you want this?” the voice in my head kept asking.
Pretty damn badly, it turns out. In February, I took a sabbatical to finish this book. Then I broke my tailbone, which made it impossible to sit for the hours that a meticulous revision requires. The upside is my house was super tidy for few weeks, because cleaning house was actually more comfortable than sitting. The downside was I got depressed. So I learned to type sideways while lying on the couch. Onward!
Then we adopted Scout, a husky-shepherd mix. Beautiful, sweet dog but guess who’s job it is to train her on house rules and hey, you don’t need to bite our other dog’s ear every five minutes to prove that you’re alpha. WE GET IT ALREADY! Plus, I like to walk the dogs for a few miles every day, but no matter how you leash Scout, with front harness or muzzle lead, she is a husky and that makes you a SLED. So now I have tendonitis in both elbows. Okay, we add ice and ibuprofen to the writing regimen.
Then there was the unexpected part of revision. It makes sense now that revisiting events that inspired so many poems would stir me, but it took me a while to figure out why I was suddenly so weepy. (I already spend enough time wondering who thinks I’m the crazy lady of the neighborhood, so this is just what I needed, right?)
This is where the devotion to craft comes in. If there’s going to be anything for the reader to discover, you have to push all the emotion deep into the poem. That means you have to get intimate with it all over again. So there I was, lying sideways with my laptop, ice packs all around, tears at the ready, and a deadline looming. To make it through the final sprint, I even quit walking the dogs those last couple weeks. So I’m not only sore but out of shape and hey, here comes summer vacation and kids who want me to drive them places!
In the end, I turned in the manuscript way before the deadline, but man, it felt like a marathon. Today I proudly cheered on my brother-in-law Tom as he crossed the finish line of a running marathon, and I have the utmost respect for him. Victory to those who train hard and keep their focus!
You can get a sneak preview of three poems from my manuscript by visiting the online magazine Pure Francis at www.purefrancis.org for the June 5, 2011 issue. (It’ll be up there a week, then look for the link “3 Poems.”) I love Pure Francis—it’s fun and fresh and flippin’ original. Plus, they have a gift shop—with beer glasses! Three of my prose poems will be debuting there tonight. They showed up during a really lucky streak (yes, I have those too!), so please enjoy them. Then pass me the Advil.