The Weight and Thing of a Book


As I look over my blog posts, I realize I have posted about events, and cartons, and what’s coming up, but I have not really spoken of what it feels like to have a book published.

It feels good.

There were many, many revisions that were worked over. There are notes I’d write about possible ways the book could go.

I want to tell you about the book. I want to tell you how it feels in my hands, the subtle texture of the cover, the deckled pages, the soft cream thick pages.

My scribblings started in 2001,or maybe 2002, while living in Sag Harbor, NY. I had an apartment in a house on Richard’s Drive, in an area described in this wonderful book. In the midst of a long tortuous tale of a woman on the precipe of her fortieth year, wondering about marriage, about death, I wrote, “Mina’s aunt Meterling was amazing.” In four lines, I described Meterling’s wedding, and continued write about Mina.

After watching rock climbers on extreme sportsTV, I wanted to change my life, transform it. So I visited Boulder, CO, and wound up moving there in 2004. I never learned to rock climb, or bike, swim, or run. I discovered a form of yoga I loved, taught in a number of universities, and after a low,angry period which needs its own blog post, I emerged with a book. For three years, I wrote and revised, and then was faced with the need to move for work. My book had been submitted but no word on its future. I packed up my life in Boulder, my seven-year love affair with a town and its people, and moved to the place where I am now, Provincetown. One month before I arrived, the book was accepted.

I exchanged hundreds of emails with my editor, and combed through three copyedited versions, each time feeling happy I had something tangible to do. I attended webinars on media presentations, googled variations of “what to expect when expecting a book,” and waited. The cover arrived. Hurrah for Christopher Silas Neal and Carol Devine Carson! A decision had to be made about which butterfly to let flitter in the pages. (I get butterflies!) Did I like the typeset used to mark the first letter of each chapter?I did.

The bound galleys arrived. A list had to drawn of people to send the book to, in case they wanted to read and comment. A copy of the actual book arrived. The heft of the thing, the feel of it.

A crate of books arrived. I had to vacuum, I had to do the laundry, the dishes. It was publication day, and I was by myself. But Friday, there was a party, and a reading in a few days. My new students are happy at my news of a book, and my old students call to congratulate. There is suddenly more to do, even as the car battery fails, as a snowstorm if followed by another.

Today I heard a woodpecker that drove me outside to see if I could spot it. I opened the screened door and heard birdsopng in what seems like such a long time. I am sick with a cold, but my book is somewhere on a bookstore shelf. I will get my first glimpse on Tuesday night. This really is a dream come true.

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Sweet News

Right now, the snow is whirling like a dust storm in a frenzy of wind.  Once again, Cape Cod has weather. Friday night, Stephen Russell of Wellfleet Market Place, which features an uncommonly fine collection of books on its shelves, hosted a reading and launch for As Sweet as Honey.  In an evening full of warmth, in a room filled with friends, and local writers and readers, after Stephen’s moving introduction, I read from the book, and chatted with writer Kathy Shorr on stage about Salman Rushdie’s genius articulation of  imaginary homelands.

Honey (Photo credit: quisnovus)

I signed some books, and continued the evening doing what I love, talking about books.

How often in our electronic worlds do we not simply talk about the books we are reading and have read.

The next evening, I attended a reception to welcome the new director of The Fine Arts Work Center, who takes the helm of a program devoted to giving time and space to emerging writers and artists.  Seven months to dream and work, year after year since 1968.

I completed my first book there, and began the second.  Would that I could make some headway into the fourth.

This is an article written by Sarah Shemkus for the Cape Cod Times.  Over tea, we spoke about writing.  Hope you enjoy!

Author chooses Provincetown for her literary retreat |

All around the ice is melting

February has always in my mind contained a “false spring.”  I must have heard the phrase in Iowa, decades back, where a lull in the harshness of winter, where as newly arrived graduate students, we were told that temperatures could freeze eyelashes, created a sense of spring.  Somehow I imagine forsythia blooming, but I am really thinking of March or April in a mild global warming (it has been happening for years) when the bright yellow flowers played up so against the patches of snow, and tufts of green grass.

Here in the northeast of the united states, we had a paroxysm of blizzard, wind shutting power grids which still have not been righted.  A cab driver told me he slept in his closet during the frigid temperatures with a camp-stove.

But now the ice is melting.  chunks of snow fall from the roof, and birds are singing again.  A squirrel comes to inspect what she can, and I have propped open a screened window for some fresh air.

I think of the TV series Northern Exposure when they once had an episode about the actual spring thaw, when if I am remembering correctly, libido was released in a frenzy.

Valentine’s Day is approaching.  A day whose ideal more than anything to give love, and give more love. Keep on giving, and try again when you recognize you still have not let go of those old patterns of a bittered heart.  Tell yourself,there is no use in bitterness, except as one of the seven or is it five senses of taste.  Just give love, and give more love.


Sunday After

All in all, it was just twenty-four hours without power or heat.  Frigid cold though.  How much I take for granted.

The snow covered all the windows completely, except for a few small streaks to peer through.

The wind rattled my home so fiercely I realized that the way my unit was shaped, I lived in a treehouse.

At times I thought the roof would blow off.

I wandered downstairs, but went back up, carrying my flashlight.

I tried to read by candlelight ( appropriately, Ancient Light by John Banville), then by flashlight.

The folks who built the fancy stationary goods company made their fortune, deservedly, with tiny reading book lights.

After the storm, which raged two days, mounds of snow were left.  Mounds, like soft vanilla ice cream, like Ponds lotion in a tub, like snow.

The snow plow came by four times.