Earlier this month I received a very welcome e-mail message from the general editor of a university press:
We are very interested in publishing your novelI stared at the screen for a while. Time was frozen and it took several seconds to thaw and allow me to catch my breath.
That morning I had been shrugging on my coat and preparing to pick up my briefcase when my computer beeped to indicate the arrival of new e-mail. It was time to go to school for my first class of the day. I glanced at my watch and decided I could take a few seconds to see what had dropped into my in-box. It ended up, of course, stretching into several minutes. I composed a quick thank-you-thank-you-thank-you note and then dashed off to school.
It was observed that I was unusually high-spirited during the morning's classes.
The general editor sent me a summary review from the manuscript editor he had commissioned to plow through my tome. Key phrases jumped out:
Not only is the story itself generally well told, but it effectively conveys significant aspects of Azorean-American life in California.... [T]he courtroom scenes are especially well managed.... [M]y overall evaluation of the ms remains fully positive, and I look forward to the opportunity of sharing my thoughts with the author directly.The ellipses, of course, conceal the manuscript editor's tiny little quibbles (“the book is at least 15-20% longer than the central narrative thread warrants,” “though the story of Paul's evolution from child prodigy to mathematician is well-enough told and does present a focal point for an alternative assimilation narrative, I'm not altogether persuaded it fully coheres with the rest of the book,” “something might be done to differentiate the speech of less well-educated from better-educated characters”). Hardly worth mentioning!
He also didn't much care for my working title. Thus my faithful readers get to join in part of the fun. What should my book's title be? For some useful background, here's is a plot summary that I used to pitch the book:
Yes, Teresa is based on my grandmother, the linchpin of my family and the vital center without whom the family flew to flinders. A wily old lady, she drew her will to force her two sons (my father and my uncle) to cooperate as co-executors of the estate. As the elder son, my uncle was deeply aggrieved that he did not get to call the shots himself, but I'm certain it was no accident that my grandmother chose to clip his wings in the way she did.
Unfortunately, there was also a lawsuit. My father and uncle had an older sister who predeceased her parents. She was my much-loved aunt and godmother (and is the dedicatee of my novel). Her widower, my embittered uncle-godfather, resented receiving nothing from the estate (although his children got quite a lot) and bankrolled a legal challenge to the will. The battle left scars that remain to this day, nearly thirty years later.
That was the raw material I drew upon to write my novel. Since I was not privy to all of the backstage maneuvering and scheming, I had to speculate on motivations and make up events to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Real-life people provided the models but their fictional representatives were not obligated to conform to the originals that inspired them. It's a novel. It's based on a true story, but I made it up. So far, the readers of the manuscript have been all over the map in guessing what parts are “real” and what parts are purely fanciful creations of my fevered imagination. For future readers, I'll admit that the accidental circumcision episode is quite true to life. Hey, if Laurence Sterne can write about such an event in Tristram Shandy, why can't I? (Mom wishes I would drop that section, but my manuscript editor favors “holding on” to the damaged foreskin—in what I'm sure was a deliberate choice of wry language on his part.)
- California Dairy
- California Gothic
- Cow Boys
- Crying Over Spilt Milk
- Curdled Milk
- Dairy Family
- Dear Dairy
- Don't Have a Cow
- Have a Cow
- Land of Milk and Money, The
- Milk of Human Kindness, The
- Moo Cows
- Past Your Eyes
- Promised Land
- Raw Milk
- Sour Cream
- Spilt Milk
- Split Milk
In the meantime, I am trimming and editing the manuscript with an eye toward an April 1 deadline. If I can deliver a satisfactory revision by that date (or close to it), the university press will put my novel on its publication calendar and it could see print as early as January 2012.
Darn. Too late for Christmas!