The Road to Publication. . .

still from the movie Airplaneis riddled with nausea. Well, at least in my case. After all of these years of sprained joints, broken bones, bouts of mono and shingles, I can’t say I’m surprised when acute illness or accident pops up, especially when it’s least convenient. Just a couple of years ago I had to flee the Census worker’s orientation with a sudden case of stomach flu. Seems like many times when I’m finally celebrating something terrific, like my own wedding, that’s exactly when part of my body gives out, like my left knee. I know I’m enacting a confirmation bias here, but I still worry there’s some grand curse on my bones and where they meet up with sinew and muscle.

So after something close to 20 rejections on my memoir, right about when I was thinking of self-publishing it just to get it out on the market, I received an email from a publisher I’d met at this year’s Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, back in early August. He said he’d like to talk with me about where they are in the process of considering my memoir.

I spent 10 minutes rereading the three sentence email. 

He wanted to talk on the phone. With me. A busy guy could spare his time to talk about this project? I couldn’t fathom it. I took stock of my goosebumps. Left and right forearms, yup, there they were. And there I was, laid up on the couch with either food poisoning from Starbucks or the stomach flu. I know it’s my own fault for seeking caffeination from the bitter roaster, but I’m a sucker for pumpkin spice.

Problem was, pumpkin spice had better things to do but be digested by the likes of me. I’d thrown up twice before reading his note in my Gmail. Now I skittled over to the guest bathroom to talk to our toilet bowl for a third time. Afterward, I tried to pull myself together. No big deal, just answer his question about when you’re available to converse and then we can get to feeling better. Cake walk. Ugh, don’t think about cake. Food is the devil. Okay, okay, typing a reply.

I’m available most afternoons, including today. I pressed the send button, and a new rumble of unhappy coursed through my intestines. Oh no, why did I include today? I can’t talk to him while I’m puking! Perhaps I’d vomited up all sense at some point in the last three hours.

Thirty minutes later, the phone rang. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand as some kind of feeble gesture against regurgitation, and picked up the call. Of course it was the publisher, who graciously began the call by asking about my baby boy. Nice touch, man. His kids are grown. Those are the folks in the throes of poignancy. We talked about children for a few minutes.

He told me he’d like to publish my memoir, and he vocalized this with a mix of straightforwardness and blase affect. Not that he wasn’t excited–only excited publishers agree to take on a new book from a total nobody. He’d selected an editor, but he wanted me to talk with her first to make sure it seemed like a good fit. And this was the first time in all of my publishing pavement pounding that anyone has given me a choice about how I wanted to proceed. Unsurprisingly, it’s just been requirement fulfillment to this point.

I’m sure I blinked at the phone for a second, my gastro-illness doing its best to temper my giddiness. Sure, I’d love to talk it over with the editor. Yes, mmhmm, great. We ended the call with the ball in his court.

I knew Bumbling into Body Hair was a great book, but to hear others exclaim about it always makes me feel humbled. I’m comfortable at this point just living in my own head, waiting for a breakthrough. Having that breakthrough is an entirely different experience.

From the next room, I heard Susanne clicking away on her laptop, working on her own academic publishing projects. She smiled at me as I stood up and hurried to the bathroom.

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Categories: Writing


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