Due to several factors beyond my control, I continue to find myself “in the queue” at Sunbury to begin editing the new manuscript for publication, but my place in line has now moved from low double digits to the middle single digits, so perhaps my process will start before Christmas. Or not. It’s hard to predict, especially when you combine the holiday season with a pregnancy leave for a member of the editorial staff and a pandemic where the rules keep changing nearly every week. The editing and design work for the previous book took about five months from the beginning of the process to the book release, so I still expect Finding Sisters to come out in 2021, though I’ve stopped using “early 2021” in my projections.
In spite of a three-week hiatus in late September/early October where I couldn’t focus my eyes properly due to the healing process after laser eye surgery, I finished the files for the audiobook version of Keeping the Lights on for Ike in mid-November and submitted them for processing. However, they haven’t yet given me a date for the release of the audiobook. I’ll be sure to let you know when it happens, so anyone who’s been waiting to hear me read my WWII book out loud to you will finally be able to enjoy that experience. I realized as I was doing the work, just how amazing it was to read my own book out loud from start to finish. The book went through multiple revisions and had been read out loud, chapter by chapter, within my writing group before I started working with the Sunbury editors to get the book ready for publication. But the writing group readings happened over a longer period of time, with several weeks between each chapter, so there was no true sense of overall continuity. But reading a chapter a day really helps you understand whether or not your story hangs together and helps you more easily find repetitions and duplications. Even after as many revisions as the Ike manuscript went through in the nearly three-year process from early chapters to final publication, I was still able to notice a few small phrasing repetitions in this reading-aloud process that no amount of revisions managed to discover prior to publication. I doubt many will notice it, other than me, but I think it’s something I’ll try to do with any future book manuscripts before final publication, even if I’m not actively working on recording the audiobook version. It was a very interesting and revealing process.
So, other than waiting to be assigned my next editor, what else is happening for me? Both of my recent books had a very specific story to tell, but I didn’t feel like I had another lengthy and specific event-driven story to share when I finished Finding Sisters well over a year ago. Most of the women in my writing group have been working on memoirs of various kinds, so I started to think what that kind of me-focused story might mean. I knew I didn’t want to write a chronological “this is my life” story (boring!), and the most dramatic thing that had happened to me in the past couple of decades was the sudden death of my husband in 2010, which was very difficult to approach as a writer, especially because I worried that whatever I wrote might be maudlin and over-emotional. So, I started writing short essays about things of importance in my life to see if they might eventually hang together and add up to a larger story. I am calling this process my mosaic memoir, so each essay becomes a “tile” in the larger mosaic. Some are related to each other (the stories about my husband and his sudden death, for example), but others stand alone. In the spaces between working on larger projects (promoting Ike and recording the audiobook version, completing Finding Sisters, not to mention working actively with a theatre company for most of 2019), I started writing those essays throughout the past two years. At the moment, they number fourteen essays that could potentially become chapters in this mosaic memoir, and I have a list of at least seven other essays I still want to write. Four of them have had two drafts, and ten of them have had one critique from the writing group and are awaiting more work on a second draft. And then there are the seven new ideas on my list that await their first draft. Definitely plenty of work to keep me out of trouble in the coming year!
I hope all of you have found safe and comfortable ways to celebrate the 2020 holiday season. Next time, most likely in early 2021, I’ll write more about the mosaic memoir process. Hopefully by then, I’ll also be able to tell you a few things about the process of working with my editor on Finding Sisters.