The return of the lady with the sharpened pencils in her quiver

Wile E CoyoteRaod RunnerI 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.