Monday, February 15, 2016


I took a deep breath 
and listened to the old brag of my heart.

I am, I am, I am.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Oh, y'all.

According to wikipedia, a backdraft is "a dramatic event caused by a fire, resulting from rapid reintroduction of oxygen to combustion in an oxygen-depleted environment; for example, the breaking of a window or opening of a door to an enclosed space."

Backdraft is also, of course, a 1991 film starring Kurt Russell as a Chicago firefighter. I've never seen the film. If you had any notions that this blog was to be a discussion of or review of the film, abandon those ideas now.

Where to begin? Last Monday I recapped my three-night struggle as a single parent, as well as a quick Dallas trip. I shared the post to Facebook as I always do since that's where all my friends live, but apparently something weird happened. I tried to remedy the situation later in the day. My mom told me the post still failed to show in her Facebook feed, & at that point I decided I didn't care anymore. It's there if you missed it. It's not the most earth-shattering thing I've ever written. You make the call; it's your five minutes.

I closed last week by letting you know February was shaping up to be a busy month for me, in part because Trey's traveling a lot this month & when he is not home for several nights, a perfect storm of busyness & exhaustion sets in for me. I could give you every little detail, but basically every last parental responsibility falls to me, including but not limited to bedtime routines, fetching things, wiping rear ends, checking the blood sugar, & carting Reagan to school in the morning. Add to that mix the fact that I don't sleep well when Trey is absent from the house (again, a variety of reasons for that . . . general skittishness, fear of oversleeping, fear of sleeping so deeply I don't wake to check blood sugar), & by the time he arrives home, I am not in a good state.

Also contributing to poor sleep:

Last week Trey was gone Tuesday & Wednesday nights. When he arrived home Thursday evening, I sat down & the weariness descended upon me like a crashing wave. Not the gentle, warm kind of wave that licks you like a puppy, mind you, but the sort of wave that knocks you off your feet & irrigates your nasal passages for days to come.

I thought I'd slept the night before. I thought I'd had a pleasant day Thursday, diligently checking all the things off my list with a smile on my face, no less. I got Reagan to school on time, I spoke with her teacher about Thursday's Valentine's Day party,  I taught my classes at Delta, I retrieved the children from my mother, & I went home to eat some of the roast I'd cooked in the crock pot all day. In the midst of the busy day, I drank four cups of coffee (one was decaf), & received an interesting email about which you'll learn more momentarily.

Apparently rather than a decent night's sleep, I was running on adrenaline all day Thursday. Well, adrenaline & four cups of coffee. As Trey walked in the door, I sat down on the couch. I remained there for a long time. I just couldn't get up. Eventually I meandered into the bedroom to find Trey stretched across the bed, snoring, while Bernie Sanders yelled in the background. THIS IS HOW BERNIE TALKS ALL THE TIME. I sat down on the bed & ended up watching far more of the Democratic debate than I'd intended to, admittedly somewhat transfixed by Bernie. The guy is genuine. He is very wrong about everything, but he's a true believer. He's like your fun but crazy uncle who insists the moon landing was a hoax.

As the debate wore on & Trey continued to saw logs, I suspected the kids had fallen asleep in the living room. I considered just leaving them where they fell, but likely one or both would've eventually woken up & had some sort of meltdown, & so I put them in bed. I crawled back in bed, eager to attend to some things I'd put on the back burner all day.

At this point the blog segues a bit as I tell you about a series of events that led to the aforementioned  email I received Thursday. Our story begins last summer. Maybe you want to go refill your coffee now.

In early June of last year, I submitted a query letter & the opening three chapters of Dear Miss Moreau to an editor who works for a mid-size publishing company. I'd researched the company & this particular editor & thought it was definitely worth a shot. Oh, by the way, for any new blog readers, I wrote a book titled Dear Miss Moreau. Here's a little blurb about it:

With a crush on her American literature teacher and a campus mailbox full of his beautifully handwritten, increasingly personal letters, graduate student Edith (Edie) Moreau finds herself a world away from the predictable ennui of the bucolic Louisiana town she called home for over two decades. Her move to Boulder, Colorado to further her academic career is proving to be more of an education than she anticipated. 

Short version: it's about two nerds who love Hemingway's work & drink a lot of coffee. But they're attractive nerds who flirt awkwardly & pen each other letters in which they drop literary references like bombs over Qatar.

So now you're up to speed.

Within days the editor emailed me back & told me she wanted to read the whole manuscript. That was exciting for me, obviously. I was beyond elated when she told me she loved the opening chapters & she was positively giddy about a book in which the characters adore & discuss Hemingway, as she has the line, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" tattooed permanently on her body (that's a line from The Sun Also Rises for those of you in Rio Linda).

I've never explicitly shared this with you, I don't believe, but I don't have any tattoos, however, if I did, you can bet a Hemingway line would be a top contender on the list of possibilities. Of course now I am compiling a list of potential lines I'd use for a tattoo I am never going to get. Understand that the wildest thing I did in college was become addicted to reruns of The Golden Girls.

Moving on.

So, I thought I'd found my best friend in the publishing industry. I knew it'd take her a month or so to get back with me as many of these editors work several jobs & they're bombarded with manuscripts that take time to read, even for editors who can devour words at a rapid pace. A few months later, she emailed to let me know she loved the book & she was submitting it to the acquisitions board for approval. This was another exciting moment, obviously, but I was cautiously optimistic as publishing is a crazy, highly subjective business. What one person loves, another person hates.

A few months later, she emailed me to let me know the board passed on my book (keep reading, the story gets better). Her email was the most wonderful rejection. She was more upset than I was, I believe. She told me she'd attached a note to her submissions package letting the board know how much she wanted to work on the manuscript. She said Dear Miss Moreau is her favorite of the things she's read since taking her job as an editor. I mean, wow. That softens the blow. The most important part of her email, however, was her insistence that I keep submitting the book.

After her email I spent a few weeks thinking about everything she'd said. I honestly felt like I could put the book aside, happy as a lark that a legit editor loves it as much as she does, & move on with my life. One of the board's issues with the book is that Dr. Foster is married when the novel opens. They agreed with my editor BFF that it is well written, but they strictly publish romance, & their readers have fairly specific expectations, & a few things about my book venture too far outside those boundaries. At times, it delves deeply into the world of academia (which I think is awesome, as does my editor BFF), but again, this isn't something that appeals to many readers.

My editor BFF & I discussed possible changes to the book, such as a rewrite in which Shannon (the estranged wife) is not Dr. Foster's wife, but a meddlesome ex-girlfriend. We decided we love Shannon & how horrible & vindictive she is & the fact that Dr. Foster is legally tied to her adds an edge & a whole heap of drama that would disappear were she an ex-girlfriend. One day, I'll blog about how much I love, & even sometimes identify with, villainous women in film & literature. Ursula's solo number is by far my favorite to sing along with in the car. They come flocking to my cauldron crying, "Spells, Ursula, please!" And I help them! Yes I do. 

Anyway, editor BFF suggested I send the book to some small publishing houses who have more eclectic lists, & so I did just that. I don't know if you've guessed this by now or not, or if you tuned out four paragraphs ago & will thus miss my news, but the email I received Thursday was an offer of publication that I believe I am going to accept. What? I know.

Back to Thursday evening, one of the things I wanted to attend to once I finally crawled in bed was to read over my email, which included a contract for me to review. I did reread the email, but then I closed my computer & turned off the lights & the TV & slept the sleep of angels. Before I drifted, I thought about the concept of a backdraft because when Trey opened the back door Thursday evening, it was as if there was a, "rapid reintroduction of oxygen to combustion in an oxygen-depleted environment."

I am not writing this as some elaborate Valentine's ode to Trey, the very air I breathe. Let's dispel with that now. I didn't realize how laborious it was to hold the collective breath I do when he's gone, particularly when he's gone & I get an email from someone offering to publish my book & I don't even have a moment in the day to sit & read & reread & process said email.

I withered when he got home, & I really didn't fully recover until Saturday. I slept so hard Thursday night I felt sore Friday morning when I got out of bed, like I'd run a marathon the day before, which I most certainly had not. The kids & I stayed inside, in our pajamas, all day Friday. I didn't even make my bed because I knew I'd be in it as much as possible.

Friday was not all lounging & nonsense, however. Thanks to the Internet, it's possible to be in bed, in your pajamas, & accomplish a few legitimate tasks. I sent a slew of emails on Friday, & when I was done, I felt like a new woman, which was remarkable considering I hadn't even bathed. I exchanged emails with two authors who're currently under contract with the publisher who's offered me a contract. I was very encouraged by what they had to say. I emailed my supervisor at Delta to let him know not to pencil my name in when they begin putting together the Fall 2016 schedule of classes. I emailed two publishers who have my manuscript to let them know I've been offered a contract, & if they want to consider the book, the clock is ticking on its availability. I know, that sounds a little pushy, but it's what is expected in the publishing industry. They want to know if someone else expresses interest, & obviously if the manuscript is no longer available.

Trey occasionally makes a comment about the time I spend on my computer. Sure, I shop online a good bit (because I am at home taking care of his children who make in-store shopping difficult). Unlike Trey, who goes to his child-free office & sits & accomplishes tasks for which he is paid, I don't have an office at Delta. I don't have any office hours during which I can plan & grade & answer student emails. I do all of this at home in spare moments when the children are calm & don't want milk, or late at night when everyone is asleep & I'd rather be reading. Occasionally I am on my computer because I am writing this blog, or, hey guess what?!, writing a book that someone wants to publish. Is that odd, that one of my joys of potential publication is to say, See, see, I don't spend all my time on Facebook!

The offer of publication was not last week's only triumph. I ate this for lunch on Tuesday. 

While usually a fan of figurative language, I take Fat Tuesday at face value. I picked it up at Daily Harvest Bakery on Forsythe in Monroe. Every year for Mardi Gras they sell personal King Cakes for people who want to feel connected to their cultural roots, but hate parades, crowds, beads, trash on the streets, & have the self-restraint not to eat a standard-sized King Cake in one sitting.

Wednesday was dress-up day at WEE School. Reagan was to dress as what she wants to be when she grows up. I explained this to her, & she immediately said she wanted to wear her chef's outfit since Wednesday is Cookie Day. Like me, I suppose she loves a good theme & could not resist the pull to dress as a cook on Cookie Day, so that's what we did.

The kids & I made it to Bible class Wednesday night. I wasn't wearing any make-up & I bet a handful of folks expected me to go forward after the devotional because I probably looked like someone in need of prayer, but regardless, we were there & we worshipped & fellowshipped & Henry completely emptied his bowels during Bible class. A good time was had by all.

Noticeably absent from this dissertation is any mention of Perry. I am nearing the end of Perry's saga & you'll likely hear more about him next week as the book club is set to meet this Friday evening. I often use words to express my feelings, but I don't think words are sufficient to express the anticipatory glee with which I await this meeting. Never underestimate the force field of energy generated by a group of women who're fleeing their jobs, their kids, their housework to gather with others of like mind & discuss how much they adore a fictional nineteen-year-old.

I'll briefly address the elephant on the blog. Did you expect an Ode to Scalia? Yesterday I sat down to write & discovered that this Austen quote from Emma is applicable:

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.

I suppose I'll have a little more to share with you regarding the book news soon. My guess is it'll take a minimum of six months, perhaps longer, before the book is actually published. I've never been through the editing process with an editor, so I'm not sure what I'm facing. I don't yet know many specifics about print distribution, but I know they do print some copies, but obviously, as is the case with many publishers these days, they sell a lot of their books to people who download them to their eReader.

I don't want to carry on & write a book dedication at this juncture, but thank you to those who read it when I made it available, & thank you for your feedback (especially those who boldly, as I asked of you, told me about spelling/grammatical errors). I doubt we caught every error, but I bet I am about to find out.

I'm excited & terrified at the thought of what an editor might ask of me, but I think I can manage as long as the editorial letter doesn't begin with, "Okay, Dr. Foster drinks too much coffee and needs to lose the sweater vests." Some people write with hopes of inspiring people to change their lives; my hope is that what I've written will inspire people to read Hemingway, drink coffee, & wear sweater vests, bringing nerdy civility to a crass, uneducated world.


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