Friday, December 19, 2008

A Service Remembered, Finally

My books came yesterday. The boxes of Counting the Cost sat on my snowy doorstep, fairly steaming, they were so hot off the press. Holding one of the books in my hand was like holding a baby after an eighteen- year gestation period. I could hardly believe it was really here.

It’s been such a long time since I wrote the story that I forgot to mention one of my first readers in the acknowledgements. I’d like to rectify that right here.

First off, let me say that for someone to read a writer’s draft is a true service. NOBODY is interested in reading the manuscript of an unpublished writer. Well, maybe another unpublished writer will, but forget about spouse, children, or best friends .

It’s not that family doesn’t believe in you. My husband was very supportive. In fact, one long-ago Christmas he bought me a correction typewriter. This was years before the first PC, and I was writing on my old portable electric typewriter with the crooked e. I never will forget opening that package and discovering this machine that would correct a whole line. You can’t get much more supportive than that.

But the fact is, I write fiction, while my husband’s idea of a real good read is something like Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. If I ask him, he will read and critique, but it isn’t his thing.

However, to become a good writer, you have to have feedback from readers to see if you are telling a compelling tale. Do they understand the story line? Did they pick up on the crucial cues? Do they like the main character? If not, why not?

Nowadays, I have lots of people willing, since I belong to a very supportive writing group, ANWA . But years ago, when I first began writing Counting the Cost, I had no network and no credibility as an author. Combine that with a seven pound manuscript, and people’s eyes would get very big when I would give them a plastic bag full of paper and ask them if they’d be willing to read the book I was writing. Bless their hearts, every one of them came through, and they’re listed on page 4 in Acknowledgements.
All except Victor. He came through. He just isn’t listed with the others.

How could I have forgotten to list my good friend and then-neighbor, Victor Manwaring? At the time, he had just had knee surgery, and the recovery was taking longer than expected. Thinking that I had him in a vulnerable position, I headed up the hill with my plastic bag full of manuscript. I thunked it down on the table beside him and began my persuasive patter. “You’ve got a horse,” I said. “This is a story about a cowboy.” He finally said he would-- I can’t remember if that was before or after I said I’d make him a pie. Or maybe it was when I mentioned my cousin Guido who would come and break his good kneecap. It doesn’t matter. He read it. And liked it. And told me so.

Victor probably remembers it differently, but that’s fine. What I remember (unfortunately too late to get it in print), is that, long before I was published, he treated me like a writer.

Thanks, Victor. Your copy is in the mail.

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