I know it’s a cliché, but I’ll use it anyway. I’m shaking in my boots. About 10 months ago I sat down with the lady with the sharpened pencils in her quiver, S.W., the retired editor of a major academic publishing house, to hear her critique of my manuscript that I hope to one day soon turn into a novel.
Afterwards, I felt like Wile E. Coyote in one of those old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes with The Roadrunner, in which Wile E. is flattened by his own steamroller. Once I peeled myself off the floor and hosed down my manuscript I went to work revising it. I’ve been in “the bunker” for the past 10 months, rising before dawn, taking cat naps in the evening. My eyeballs have the texture of sandpaper on a good day. I recently returned the new version to S.W., confident she’d read it without finding any “speed bumps.” I put a star in magic marker on my calendar to mark the date I plan to start soliciting literary agents.
In my cockiness, I asked S.W. if we could meet at the tail end of an upcoming meeting of our monthly book club gathering. What was I thinking? In her private school headmistress voice, she responded, “My dear, you must think I only have a few corrections.”
My stomach began to roil. Now we’ve now come up with a date which will give us plenty of time for discussion. Since then, I’ve gotten another email from her. She said, “About your manuscript, Lisa, ‘Then’ is not a conjunction. Do you have a copy of Strunk and White? If not, you may borrow mine.”
Strunk and White? Didn’t I read that freshman year of college? Gulp!
I’m steeling myself for this next critique and dusting off the fire extinguisher in case I can’t stamp out the flames on my manuscript the old-fashioned way. Afterwards, it may be back to the bunker for me.
Last week my husband and I gave a presentation at a lunch ‘n learn event at the university where he works. Lunch ‘n learn is a training or educational event held during the lunch hour. Our 60-minute presentation was on a topic he has been researching for years and one I find intriguing. I had several goals: to support my husband’s efforts, present information that would capture the attention of the audience and make them want to hear more, and practice my presentation skills. They will come in handy after I’ve landed that contract with a publisher, gotten my manuscript published, and embarked on an author tour.
I understand some authors are loath to speak in public, but public speaking can be critical to promoting your book. A great way to get practice is to volunteer to speak before audiences big and small on a topic you have expertise in. It doesn’t have to be about your yet-to-be published book. And while you’re at it, pass out those business cards or post cards you had made up with your blog address on them. You’ll begin to build an audience and drive traffic to your blog, helping to make yourself attractive prospective agents.
I had an opportunity to chat with Michael Beschloss, historian and commentator on PBS News Hour and NBC News. Beschloss made a speech at a work convention I’m attending in Las Vegas. After his talk, I purchased a copy of his book, Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, and got him to autograph it.
I told him about the novel I’m writing. He seemed intrigued by the topic and was encouraging. Every so often it’s good for an aspiring author to have a conversation with someone like Beschloss. It gives us hope while we’re toiling away at our manuscripts, wondering if they’ll ever get published.
Visiting Chino Hills, California this week for my goddaughter, Heather’s high school graduation, we decided to stop in Barnes and Noble in one of the malls. I’m happy to report that Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game was on the shelf. Heather took a peek inside at my story, “Short Distance Romance.” She was tickled to see godmommy’s name in print.