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Same Table, Different House

January 22, 2012

Eleven months ago, my manuscript looked like this: 14 pounds of paper about to be mailed to the University of Nebraska Press. In October, just before we moved, I spent two weeks with the copy-edited manuscript on this table in our old kitchen.

This week, I’ve lived with the manuscript on the table yet again: the page proofs. When I see it again at the end of May, it will be printed, bound, and wearing its cover.

I approached my pile of page proofs  as an editing task and found myself sucked-in –not by John and Mary’s story; isn’t all of God’s work in the world amazing? –but by all the memories associated with writing it.

I was surprised over and over again by little things like a sentence that will be nothing more to you (if you read it) than the topic idea in a new paragraph. But when I read it this week, I relived a little epiphany folding laundry in the July sunshine streaming in on my living room floor that made  dump the socks off my lap, run to my desk in the kitchen, and type the key sentence –the turning point at the midpoint of the story –then returned to the laundry, certain I understood, now, where the story was going.

And that’s the truth. Even writing history from primary sources –which you’d think would dictate the story–this one held so many surprises. Not the whats; history dictates people and places and dates. But the whys. When writing is going well, it’s like reading a  book that I can’t put down –except I have to keep writing to find out why the characters made the choices they made, which in turns shed new light on what happened. I can’t just turn a page and read on because the story isn’t written yet.

See, it always makes me smile when someone wonders aloud how I could ever find time to write a book. The real question is: when I’m writing, how do I find time to do the laundry?  Or to refinish this kitchen table 🙂 ?

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