The past weeks have been used to solicit reader comments from the entire 378 page/ 157k word novel. I’ve interviewed readers after and have sifted through all the various reactions and have a short list of adjustments I’d like to make after further discussions with my editor Vicki Weiland. Most of those adjustments happen beyond the first 50 pages and it is this chunk of the book that is being prepared for submission to various possible buyers. I am with the help of Vicki and another two readers am polishing the 50 pages a bit more. We are not altering the text itself just moving some punctuation marks, grammar and spelling etc… minor but important details. Over the next few days I’ll grind through the text several more times putting all those corrections into the pages. Next, both a one page synopsis and about one paragraph biography will be prepared. All of those materials are then sent as hard copy and on CD to another editor who is going to examine these 50 pages one more time. This is at my editors request and she wants this one final last looking over by someone she trusts before we actually begin submitting the book.
It is very hard to calculate how many passes I’ve made over these 50 pages, how many times I’ve read them, how many times I’ve rewritten them, and how I still have a few subtle details tangled up in a few words that I still feel concerned about whether they are precise enough and capture my intent. You just don’t want a potential buyer to fall upon an undetected error….
Writing a short biography is hard work. The synopsis has become more fully formed and doesn’t drain me. The cover letter that goes out with each submission remains to be drafted, but one good drafting should do it. So, there it is. Clean up the first 50 pages, biography of half a page, one full page synopsis, and a cover letter. In short order we should begin to post not just the progress of these final details, but the results of the publishers and agencies that I’ll be submitting all this material to.
I’m just home this morning having left Liverpool, England after a few days off following the Shrewsbury Street Performers Festival. It has been a robust summer of travel and change. I was speaking by telephone with Jennifer Bain a long time friend and painter. We were both interested in the inner anxiety that comes with making a new piece of art. In her case it is a painting on canvas. In my case it is making new material for my show. The core inner experience we focused on in our conversation was fear. Jennifer said that it was a requirement of the creative process to be bound by some sense of fear, and that the feeling of fear is a sign that the creative process is underway. In the grip of this emotion we often lose our orientation and we forget that there is no other way to get from the old show to the new show without going through this emotion.
So, after 35 years of shows, after all this experience, once more I was there at the very infancy of the new, the birth of new material, and so it goes, from shows in the Napa Valley of California, to the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival in Alberta, Canada to Whistler’s Summer Performing Arts Series, in British Columbia to finally appearing in Shrewsbury, England at a busking festival over Labor Day…all this travel and experimentation, all the anxiety and fear, plotting and planning, all of this churning and driving and flying, finally landing home with autumn near I have made it! And the show seems in very good order! I drew good sized audiences, the material while in places coarse and unpolished is revealing itself to be headed more in the right direction than the wrong direction.
And I’ll leave it at that, but to say there is more material to be created, more fear to feel, and that’s as it should be. I am attempting to blend the narratives in my novels with the non-narrative challenges of variety show, that one might in some way inform and speak about the other. This is the whole of the task at hand, and it is my template going forward, to do show, to write book, to blend show and book, joke and soul, heart and mind, all this into something new! And I am scared because I am completely and utterly out on a limb, of my own making, wondering if I can interest my audiences who read my books in my show and those who see my show into exploring my books.