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QUINTESSENCE

Welcome the Good

When the good comes, recognize it as such; you’ve worked hard to get here, readied yourself in a hundred ways so that it could find a home in you. When the good comes, nod to it and the circuitous route it had to take to find you in this exact moment of rightness. When the good comes, seat it comfortably while you tend to your old companions fear and doubt – they have done their best to protect you, but their journey with you must end here. When the good comes, meet it with an open heart and a willingness to explore. It’s your time.
- Kathy Freston, "The Daily Lean"

The juncture when a writer turns in a manuscript and waits, full of hope and apprehension as the nascent work's first critical review progresses, the all important assessment that evaluates the work on merit, the market, the quality of writing, and against the professional reader's own taste and expectations, is a very hard crossroads indeed. One direction lies elation, the other disconsolation. Whenever I submit work, I think of Cynthia Oznick's comments "Writers have a little holy light within, like a pilot light which fear is always blowing out. When a writer brings a manuscript fresh from the making, at the moment of greatest vulnerability, that's the moment for friends to help get the little holy light lit again."

Kathy Freston's post today from her wonderful blog "The Daily Lean" spoke deeply to me. As you know, two plus weeks ago my new manuscript entered review with my literary agent. As I waited (paced?) there were bread crumbs along the way as she read (it's a big book - 445 pages) - "Reading...and loving it!" Glimpses of what every writer hopes for: a book that captures a reader, pulls them through, delivers the goods. When she finished the manuscript on Sunday she sent me an immediate email that began "Brava!...."

Elation, my friends. The pilot light is lit once more. And yet... I'm already worried about what comes next. I have barely allowed this precise shimmering moment of goodness to sink in.

Freston reminds us we must accept our good inwardly or we devalue ourselves, our work, our dreams. Why is it so hard to feel deserving? It's easy to toss good moments off to luck, or accident, to cheat ourselves of the satisfaction of appreciating what we worked for. This is very different from the lovely bounty that comes solely of grace. (As I write this a random selection on my music playlist fills my study with Ray Lynch's ebullient, transcendent soundtrack "Deep Breakfast" and the track "Rhythm in the Pews." Joyful music!)

What comes next? Stage 2: Spending the next days doing light turnaround edits. However many times you comb through your work, there is always one dastardly cliche or an exclamation mark to weed out, a dropped verb missing in a sentence, an anchor the writer needs to craft to better anchor the reader in the narrative - all of which the critical reader meticulously sieves from the manuscript. (Do the dedicated and tremendously talented professionals in literary agencies and publishing ever get thanked enough?) As my manuscript gets this final grooming, a synopsis of the novel, an author bio, and critical reviews of previous works must be crafted and gathered together. The manuscript, our race horse - prances in its gate, ready to fly down the track. The grand prize? Win an offer from an acquisition editor in a well-respected publishing house.

Why am I once again anxious? Stage 3: selling to the capricious and uncertain publishing market. Books are a gamble full of inherent risk. This stage is a stride by stride commentary of trips, surges, and wobbles as our book charges through packs of rejections and lukewarm interest, never stopping, utterly focused on landing that one all-significant "Yes." You can race your heart out on that track. Cross the finish line dead last, or not at all. The writer's pilot light, as Oznick puts it, faces a great vulnerability when a book goes to the market. Publishing is, after all, a business. Perhaps Steinbeck summed it best when he wrote, "The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business."

As promised, that's the latest update on my hopeful new manuscript. Let you know how that horse race goes.... Wish me luck!

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