The Ninth and Tenth

Today a friend of mine came over with a pleasant surprise: a printed copy of my entire book with notes that she had written in the margins.

When we first greeted each other, I noticed a plastic bag in her hand and I figured she had brought her lunch with her or had a couple odds and ends in her bag for whatever reason someone has a plastic bag.

After light chatting and laughter, she said. “I have your book.”

“My what?”

“Your book. I have your book.”

I’m not used to hearing the word “book” in reference to my writing. I talk about how my “book” was rejected. How the “book” has lain dormant for a long time. But if someone says the words “your book“, I have to really think about what they’re saying.

So when she said that she had my book, my mind raced, wondering if I had asked her the day before to pick up a book for me or if she had had a book in her car that she wanted me to look at.

Just yesterday we had been hashing over details for a future publication and I *almost* wondered if she had compiled it in a single night. She’s definitely ambitious, hardworking and creative but the idea was so ludicrous that it ran away before I really paid attention to it.

I must have looked confused because she pulled a thick bundle of papers out of her plastic bag and said. “I printed off your book and made some notes.”

My heart erupted and I grinned like a fool. To go so long without any feedback and to suddenly have a friend take this journey seriously…it was enough to make me want to jump up and down, shout something inane and silly, and rush into her with a big hug and a sappy soliloquy.

Instead, I nonchalantly suggested we sit down (still grinning like an idiot) and go over her notes.

And what notes! There weren’t a lot but they were excellent and sincere, filled with the ideas of a reader who thinks ahead, who wonders while the words fly beneath her eyes and who completely understands the path the author chose to go.

While she mused about the ending and I searched for a particular clue in the middle of the book about Anna’s older brother in order to expand on a previous thought, it struck me that I had just been given an author’s dream afternoon. I had the undivided attention from an audience member who was not afraid to say, in person, “hey, this needs some amping up. And maybe this section could use a little less of this emotion or maybe just this particular word needs to be deleted…?”

Heaven. Absolute heaven.

Although I will never disclose the ending on this blog, or even the middle of the book, her suggestions about the ending were marvelous. In a moment of spontaneous courage, I also asked her about the beginning. “What if I did this?” and quickly expounded on details that had been running through my mind. “What do you think about that for a start? Would that draw you in?”

With a spark in her eyes, she said, “Yes. Definitely. But I think you should have a Psychologist begin the narration. Or maybe Anna’s older brother.” With her hands gesturing and her eyes serious, she continued to describe what was becoming, in my mind, the best introduction I could ever dream of.

Which makes me wonder…who is writing this book? Me? My friend? The responses from the surveys and my pondering about the results?

Which then makes me wonder how any book is ever written. I imagine that successful authors take their audience into account. They consider their target audience and find a niche that will attract the numbers. I doubt that these successful authors sit down with their audience to ask questions while in the midst of writing but I figure that since I don’t have an audience, I have to find a way to gather one together.

What better way to find the answers than to ask for help from my friends, family and complete strangers?

And what better afternoon could be had than one where a friend treats my dream as a reality, giving me the precious gift of time and unhurried creative conversation?

Thank you, dear friend, for your thoughtful and compelling ideas. You went above and beyond.

Published in: on January 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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