Break a leg, Bo and Susannah
Or I thought I'd wish them well. As it turns out, the emotion is a little stronger than that.
Granted, the trip to the post office wasn't Sobfest '08 like J.J.'s first day of preschool was, but it wasn't a simple business transaction either.
See, as a writer, that is my mantra. It's not personal. It's just business. I think that's what the mafia says before they kill someone, but I don't mean it like that. I just mean that writing is how I make money, so if a book doesn't get bought by a publisher, it's not something to cry about. It just means I need to make more sales calls.
But that's not really how writing works. You do get attached to your characters and stories, and it's very hard to sell a book. So there is some emotion wrapped up in it.
Still, I convinced myself that sending off the manuscript was no big deal. After all, I don't even know if the editor will buy it. She liked the first three chapters, but there are 12 more where that came from and who knows if they'll make the grade.
I should have known mailing off the manuscript was a big deal, however, because this morning, my obsessive compulsiveness was in full force. As I printed the manuscript, I checked all the pages to make sure they were in order. I peered into the envelope several times to make sure it contained everything it needed. And, though I'm not proud to admit it, I even washed and rinsed the rubberband that holds the papers together.
I don't know what I was expecting. The editor to say, "Look at this rubberband! It's hideous. Into the trash with that manuscript!"
On the contrary, the editors I know are nice, reasonable people who have no bias whatsoever toward clean rubberbands.
At the post office, I got my favorite postal clerk, who walked me through the ordinarily simple process of mailing a letter. But keep in mind, since this is my first novel manuscript, it was more like mailing a baby. As I faltered with closing the envelope, she took over with the gluestick. (Note to self: put her on the Christmas calzone list.)
I choked back my tears and even resisted the urge to ask for a minute alone with the envelope. Like I said, she is my favorite clerk, and I don't want her to think I'm quirky.
But if I did have a minute alone with the package, I would have said:
Bo, Susannah, you know I love you. I'm sorry I created so many obstacles for you throughout the novel. The secret baby, for starters. I think you're better people for it, however. I, too, have changed in the course of writing this story. I always wanted to write a novel but didn't think I could do it. You taught me that I can. In fact, I'm starting a second one tonight. I will never forget the two of you, and in closing, I believe in you. So do me a favor and sell this book.
When I got home, I thought about what an agent said at a conference I went to. Don't make your goal to be selling the book. You can't control that. Make your goal to be finishing the book.
I thought, Gee that's a nice sentiment. Unfortunately, groceries and Catholic school don't pay for themselves. And nobody says, "We accept Visa, Mastercard and finished manuscripts." It just doesn't work that way.
But when I held the tall stack of paper in my hands today and slid it into the envelope. When I put the envelope on the scale at the post office. When I got back home, knowing the fate of my story was out of my own hands, I finally understood what that agent meant. I felt like I had accomplished a goal. I wrote the best story I know how to write.
And mailing it off wasn't "no big deal," as I expected. I mailed off something I care about. I guess it would be like a grandma mailing off her "something borrowed" to her grandaughter, and hoping that, not only will it get there safely but that the marriage will be a good one.
I hope that the editor likes the manuscript, and not only that, but that people will read it and feel good.