Tuesday, March 15, 2005
How I Got Here, Part 13
We’re up to somewhere in the first three months of 1998. When I quit writing. Again. There was nothing else I could do to rewrite Color the Sidewalk for Me. I’d done all my agent had asked. Now she wanted it done all over again, saying I’d accomplished nothing the first time around. I knew she was wrong. She obviously thought she was right. We’d never see eye to eye. And so I quit.
A number of months went by. I did not call Jane. What would I say? That she was crazy, and I couldn’t work with her? No way. So I just . . . did nothing.
To Jane’s credit, as busy as she was, one day she called me. What happened, had I fallen off the face of the earth? Where was my rewrite?
I was too nervous to even sit during the call. Taking a deep breath, I pulled her last letter toward me. Oh, yes, it had never gone very far from my desk. I’d kept it there all those weeks—just to torture myself. I started asking her a few timid questions, a tiny hope niggling in my stomach. Maybe we’d manage to work this out, somehow . . .
Jane started talking. Saying all the things she’d said already—what I needed to fix. Stuff I knew I had fixed. My hope drained away. This was not going to work.
Then she said something. Mentioned a certain sequence in the manuscript that she’d wanted me to take out. Huh? I stopped her. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Are you talking about scene x, y, z?"
Yes, she was.
“But,” I stared at my check-offs on her letter, “I took that scene out. Like you wanted.”
Long pause. “You did?” Shuffling papers. “But here it is, on page so-and-so.”
Like a brick over the head, it hit me. I sank into my office chair. “Jane. That’s the old manuscript. My first rewrite. You read my old manuscript--again.”
And she had. Somehow, in all the piles of paper in her office, the old manuscript hadn’t been tossed out. When she got around to reading my current rewrite, she picked up the old version. My mistake, really—I hadn’t dated the versions.
Let that be a lesson to you writers out there.
No wonder. No wonder . . .everything! That she thought I’d made no changes. That I knew I’d made them all. She wasn't crazy. I wasn't crazy. Oh! Oh, oh, oh. I couldn’t dance around my office. It wasn’t joy I felt, but nauseous relief.
She’d read my old manuscript.
I didn’t have to quit writing anymore.
Back to waiting. Again. Notice how this is the story of a writer’s life? Jane promised to get to Sidewalk right away—the correct version, that is, which she found in her office. She apologized profusely about the whole mix-up. So did I. Sorry, sorry, all around. I didn’t care whose fault it was. All I knew was that I hadn't lost all my sanity after all. This would be it now. I mean, for real this time. My agent would accept my manuscript. She’d love it. She’d send it out to publishers. They’d love it. Buy it. For big bucks. I’d be a PUBLISHED NOVELIST . . .
Read Part 14