Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Continuing with the story of the trip as we know it.

At the end of August, as planned, I finished off the book I've been writing, and sent it to the publisher.  My contact there has been graciously warm and complimentary in receiving it, and says that their meeting to consider incoming manuscripts is full for September, but they will look at it in October.  So, by the end of October I will be able to tell you if they will be publishing it or not.

Before it went to the publisher, it went to the Badger and to Julie Faraway to read.  The Badger speed-read it, and gave it the thumbs-up; Julie is reading it slowly and carefully, bookmarking it for comment later.  They are an excellent reading team.

I felt relieved when the Badger said the book had come out good.  'Wonderful', he said, and 'Brilliant'.

I was relieved because - like everything I write, I guess - it has little to commend it in the way of plot or action, no dazzling intellect or subtle cunning twists to amaze and confound the reader; it's just a story of the heart.  That's all I do.  I tell the story of life as I have seen it to be.

I hope the publisher will get what I am saying, and consent to add it to my series, The Hawk & the Dove - it will be the seventh book of that series, if they do.  It's about how life can be sweetened (or soured) by the way we talk to one another.

Sometimes publishers have seen where I am coming from, and made it possible for me to tell my stories of the heart, the way I have seen life to be.  Not always.  My book Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People was published by SPCK who understood, and edited helpfully and respectfully, and with them that book had a long, long run, finding its way into most of the UK's hospices and into ordination training programs.  I was so grateful to SPCK.

Then in due course it went out of print and, because people still came looking for it, it seemed right to make an expanded and revised version of it, with three new sections added - one about taking funerals, one about bereavement from other causes than death, and one being the story of my husband Bernard's dying.

The original book had been very personal, coming as it did out of my work (at the time I wrote it) as a hospice chaplain.  The sections I added were even more personal, they were stories of my heart about life as I had seen and experienced it to be.

The re-write was commissioned by another English publisher, but when it was completed, something went wrong.  There had been an error in the contract that both the publisher and I had overlooked.  The commissioned book was to be 35,000 words, a significantly expanded revision of the original with the three new sections.  But the original had 45,000 words.

I had written what I understood we had agreed.  The publisher had been imagining a short 'how-to' book guiding people through stages of grief - a book to hold in your hand.  The manuscript they got was about 70,000 words.

At this point we parted company.  The publisher talked about the book in terms of 'product'.  I talked about it in terms of 'story'.  What I had written, which was the agonising putting on paper of the slow tearing apart of my life and heart and the insights I had found in that, turned out to be too long for the product the editor had in mind.  It didn't fit with the other 'how-to' books in the category.  It would have too many pages, so cost more to produce, and unbalance the budget a little.  She had a suggestion for me.  Couldn't I take the story of Bernard dying, divide it up into gobbets (that was the word she used) and distribute them as illustrative material here and there in the text of the original.

Er . . . no.

That book has found a different publisher now, who also requires some re-writing to turn the story of my heart into suitable product, but who at least have not made the mistake of suggesting that I hawk up the story of my husband dying in gobbets.

I sometimes wonder about products, and target markets, and 'building a platform', and all the ways my wise agent tries to coax me into entering the Human Race.  But in the end I can find nothing inside me to write but the story of my heart, and life as I have seen it to be so far.

What brought all this to mind was a story my daughter Fi told us about over supper last night.  I'll give you a link in a minute.  If you follow the link, it takes you to Tim MacCartney's page where you have to select 'The River Man Story' from the list of stories on the left at the top there.  The River Man Story is the tale that set me thinking about stories of the heart.  Here's the link.

Monday, 29 August 2011

From Beth's blog

From time to time I like to catch up with what y'all have been up to, and I take a little cruise through the 'Blogs I Love Visiting' listed down in the side-bar there.

Today I really enjoyed reading this post about going beyond our usual grazing pastures to enrich our faith in unfrequented territories.  It's from the new blog 12 Steps To Church; at the present time (maybe because it's so new?) I am having trouble fixing the link in the sidebar list, but I'll try again in a day or two.

And I took a while to reflect on what Julie had said about real, inner beauty here.

Then I read about Beth's delicious tomatoes, and shared her family walk at the streamside on the post that had this utterly fabdoodle pic:

Don't you just love them? And do you notice, beard/no-beard - they have the same smile!  That is so cool!  Thanks, Beth! 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Mothers, teachers, hairdressers, the doctor's, the library: fear of so many and so much. The end of the day.

There.  That's better.  Nice big writing.  

I finished the book I have been writing, today.  It's gone off for its first editorial, to the kindly (but beady-eyed) Badger.  Next it goes to Julie Faraway for perusal.  Then it goes off to the publisher on its Journey of Hope and Pitiful Optimism.

I think it's come up good, but I'm so tired and wrecked after the tossing seas of Grim Concentration Against All The Odds that it's quite hard to say.  I'll see what the Badger and Julie Faraway tell me when they've Inspected.

But peering dimly to see what was left inside after the book is all done, I felt a bit surprised to see fear.  Fear of what?  Oddly, fear of my mother coming upstairs.

Let me explain.

I have this problem with having haircuts.  Afterwards, the hairdo always looks fine, very pretty - but it looks like a hairdo still, not like a person.  It never feels like me.  And very little time elapses before I think "I don't want this", and chop off a bit here and a bit there with the sewing scissors, until it looks more normal, more hacked about and less professional; more actually me.  And that's what I did today.

Now, when I was about . . . ooh, maybe five or six . . . I decided to cut my hair.  After I cut it, I was scared.  My mother would come upstairs and see.  So I stuck it back on again with sellotape.  Funnily enough, she noticed anyway.  She was neither thrilled nor filled with admiration.

My life has lurched unsteadily from day one through this landscape of threatening looming disapproval, the OMG What Have I Done of so many inadvisable Bids For Independence and ill-judged Acts Of Self-Expression.  Though by nature timid and reclusive somehow Trouble has followed me with its Terrible Nose on the scent of my vanishing fear.  It knows.  It finds me.

I joined a library, but I forgot to take my book back and then my card went mouldy, and I never dared go back again after that.  This would be about . . . ooh . . . nineteen years ago?

I'd go to the doctor for pre-natal check-ups, and he'd look down his nose at me and say: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, Mrs Wilcock."  He also thought I was Very Tall.  I'm not really. Only five foot seven.  If you don't count the flamey bits and the wings.  When my first child was born, the consultant did his Grand Tour of Frank Shaw Ward saying "That's What I Call A Baby" etcetera: until he came to me.  "What did you have?" he asked.  I was polite.  I didn't say, "A baby, duh!  Dork."  I said, "A girl."
"Ah!" he said, with but the faintest hint of a sneer: "Another one to argue and fight with the doctors."  That was where he went wrong, really.  I just said: "Yes."

And teachers . . . oh, glory . . .  "You have passed the point of no return"; "Penelope's attitude has been a little more pleasant this term" - and it was all downhill from there, really . . .  

The trouble with the hair is if I ever go back.  Trembling with horror and disdain, the artiste combs into the air a skein of my scratchy wool.  "Who cut this?" the ominous questions begin:  "This looks as though it has been cut with a razor!!" (Yes.  The Badger's.)

I have left school, praise be to God on high.  I have left the library.  I guard my health like the Crown Jewels and stay as far away from the doctor's surgery as life will permit.  My mother's kindly, guiding light of disapproval reminds me I am still alive and this still must be me.  And I've blown it with the hairdresser now haven't I?  I will never dare go back.  Have to just let it grow again, I guess.

Oh!  That's better still!  You were there all the time! I can see you now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Fractionally calmer...

. . . at this end of the day.

Back up to speed.  Interferences zapped for the moment.

Conscious of loving prayer making the difference, as it always does.

Will start back on work in hand when I wake up in the morning.

Word of another book contract today, from my agent - but that will have to wait until September to think about.

Now going to make a cup of tea and watch The Fox and the Child.  Here's the trailer.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

How to do love.

I love this man.  Every time I look at this photo, my heart does a little flip.

He and I had a brief email correspondence this morning (he works away in Oxford during the week, and comes home at weekends).

I had a haircut on Tuesday.  I haven't had my hair trimmed for two years, so it had got to the Split Ends & All Dried Out From Half-Way Down stage. A length chopped off seemed practical.  And I'd sent a photo to the Badger of his New Wife, for his approval.

Now you should bear in mind that the Badger loves long hair, and when I said I'd be having it cut, a little squawk of distress escaped him.  But the email I sent with the photo of the New Wife received a reply saying "Wow! She's gorgeous xxx", and he rushed off to show it to the editorial secretary, who (wisely) enthused.

He emailed to tell me the editorial secretary added her seal of approval, and I replied saying I was grateful for that, as the day had not been going well - it's raining and change in weather has brought the usual odd result of drivers behaving erratically, rendering road travel more exciting than one might wish; and I'm not quite happy with how my book is going and can't see what I need to do to make it go right; and this morning I weighed myself when I did my exercises only to discover I'd added a pound.  And I was missing him: a lot.  Sigh.

Very shortly I got an email back assuring me that Wii knows nothing, he's sure I can't have put on weight, but he will check me all over very carefully when he comes home, just to make sure.

My Badger is full of kindness.  He is one of the most cheerful, encouraging, supportive people I have ever met.  It's a wonderful thing, being married to someone who knows how to do love.  I consider myself blessed.

Oh - and in case you were curious: