Surprising Steps along the Path

It's no wonder each step is a surprise when I'm walking around on these weird dinosaur emu feet.

I loved Tara’s “Monstoremobile” concept she gave us on Monday, but even more, I love her reaction to her cover. This is the reaction I expected to have to my cover as well, but, as I have discussed here previously, I didn’t.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the path between deal and debut for me, has been how my reactions to the various stages of the process have been different from what I expected.

When the deal was at last in place, I had expected to feel great joy and a desire to crow to the world of my success. Instead, I felt great relief, and very self conscious about crowing, because I didn’t want to crush anyone who was still waiting for their chance to crow.

When I first spoke to my editor on the phone, I was a nervous wreck about it for days, practicing my “professional persona,” only to find her so comfortable to talk to that we were telling each other silly personal stories right off the bat.

Then came the much dreaded editorial letter. While I waited for my letter I heard all the stories about sixteen page letters, asking for everything to be changed except the kitchen sink (which appears only once at the bottom of page 137, in a paragraph that is going to get cut anyway.)  When the letter came, I stared at it for half an hour before getting the nerve up to open it. I read through it. Something was missing. Where was the awful part? Where was the hard part that demanded I totally rewrite the entire thing? I had expected a moment of “this is too big, I can’t do it” panic. Instead, it all looked easy, and logical, and I was saying “Of course, that’s exactly what I want to do! Perfect! I couldn’t agree more!”

It was so easy, in fact, that I anticipated the real work would begin with the second letter.  And of course, I knew there HAD to be a second letter. You see, I went through a very rigorous graduate program in which I had to write twelve drafts of my dissertation proposal, before I could even start my dissertation itself. Twelve drafts, some of which were accompanied by revision letters filled with very harsh words about my writing, that might have (more than once) included “sloppy.” So how could a professional editor at a publishing house be happy with one revision?

But she was. The follow up email lauded my efforts and told me the next draft would be the copy edits.

I cringed a little at that. Because if there is one thing I don’t know how to do, it is spell or punctuate. Or count, but that’s a different issue.

I'm not proud of it, but I've learned to embrace it.

Here's proof, should you doubt me.

The thing is, I knew the copy edits would be a sea of red pencil, that would humiliate me into acknowledging my pathetic grasp of the English language.  But along they came, with another surprise. The phrase “It’s very, very clean,” in the cover letter.  Huh? My writing clean?  My first reaction was relief, but then came the swan dive into self doubt. There could only be one explanation for this–my publisher had assigned the intern’s two-year-old golden retriever as my copy editor. How else could I explain the lack of mark up?  I sent the copy edits back feeling sure I was doomed. It was going to be the worst book every published, with errant commas everywhere. Doomed, I tell you. My entire career devastated by a very, very clean manuscript.

Somewhere in all that, the cover appeared. The glorious, beautiful cover. The moment I had waited for above all others, because the cover would make it feel like a book. But it didn’t. It was weird and surreal, and not my cover at all!  Ack! Wasn’t I ever going to get one of these emotions right?

Then, just two weeks ago, my first pass pages arrived. These are photo-ready page proofs, appearing exactly as each page will appear in the book. I have published many scholarly articles, and I’ve always found reading through the page proofs to be very tedious, so I braced myself.  One more proof read, I thought. A bit of a drudgery, but no putting it off. So I ripped open the package and pulled out the pages.

I looked at the first page. And then the second. And then I saw my formatted dedication, and I cried. Actually cried. Seriously, people, I’m not a crier. That would be my sister. But there it was, a sliver of my heart on the page, EXACTLY AS THE WORLD WAS GOING TO SEE IT. Subtly, the whole world shifted.

I turned to the opening of chapter 1. It had ARTWORK!

HOLY COW!!!! THIS IS A BOOK!!! I thought.

And there it was. Overwhelming, uncontrolled joy and excitement. The real thing. Surging through every pore of my body.  Here, in what I had thought would be the most humble step of all, it hit me.

This is a book.

This is my book.

This is an amazing book.

Surprise, surprise.



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18 responses to “Surprising Steps along the Path

  1. Melanie Crowder

    I love the interior artwork, Jeannie. You have an amazing design team! And I think your deal to debut journey echoes the experiences of our readers and characters, who can relate to never having the right reaction to things, and being surprised by their own successes.



    • And I haven’t shown you the coolest thing about the interior artwork! You are going to have to wait for the book to find that out. Unless I spill the beans, because I’m really bad at keeping secrets that I’m excited about!


  2. Cynthia Levinson

    I love this so much, I cried, too, Jeannie. Oh, OK, I didn’t cry-cry but I’m teary because I’m so happy for you and your soon-to-be readers and for your next book that will hardly need any editing.


  3. Thanks, Cynthia. But I’m still highly suspicious of my copy-editing success. I think anticipating that the next one is going to experience the same result is a bit like expecting lightening to strike twice in the exact same spot.


  4. Excellent! Looking forward to August. It will be here so soon!


    • I’m sort of caught in a terrible paradox regarding my release date, Victoria. On one hand Aug. 28th is my release date, so I want it to hurry and get here. On the other hand, I have to be back at work on campus two weeks before that, and I don’t want my unencumbered writing time to go fast at all! But, I guess August 28th will roll around at the same rate, no matter what.


  5. Jeannie, what a beautiful story! Like Cynthia I got teary-eyed too… your beautiful book, all coming together for you. A well-deserved happy ending! 🙂


  6. J. Anderson Coats

    I’m not a big squee-er, but I’m squeeing over your interior art. I’m a little jealous of you MGers on this point!


    • I totally think violent YA books should have artwork. I’ve got a red crayon, would you like me to add some interior art to your book too? And though I’m not a big squee-er either, I’m right there with you!


  7. I got teary, too! What a beautiful peek behind the scenes. Thanks for sharing the process (and that beautiful interior artwork!) with us. 🙂


  8. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Jeannie, the art is lovely, lovely, LOVEly!

    I felt the same way when I read my dedication–quite possibly because it was the only part of my novel that I hadn’t read and revised a hundred bazillion times. Can’t wait to have Katerina sit on my shelf!


    • I think that’s true, Natalie. The dedication was the only thing in the book that was truly new as of this reading. Strangely, though, in reading through this formatted version, the writing sounded different to me. It was like, for the first time, I felt like I was reading someone else’s book. I had a very pleasant sense of detachment, the kind we wish we had but so seldom get on our own writing.


  9. Jeannie – This was so evocative! I could truly feel the emotional highs, lows, doubts, electrifying joys and moments of in-between. I enjoyed your very honest, reflective chronicle of a deal-to- debut experience. Thanks for sharing.


  10. What a post–it had it all! A non-crier is teary-eyed here, too. And that INTERIOR ART!!?
    Congrat’s, Jeannie! CAn’t wait for my copy!!!!


    • Thanks, Lynda! So many more teary eyes around here–not quite what I expected from this post. There I go again, getting the expectations wrong! I can’t wait for my copy either. Rumor has it, I should be seeing ARCs sometime next week!


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