Hard Labor

Lest you think that I’m about to engage in major TMI, I promise not to share the details of the birth of my children.

The truth is that getting a book out the door is hard labor.  More pain, much longer and there’s no anesthesia offered at any point along the way.

Scone by Scone’s inception began more than six years ago when I belonged to a local writers’ group. Every other week we’d gather and every other week you had to bring something new, or at least a revision of what you brought the last time. I discovered that whenever I wrote about my life as an innkeeper, my fellow writers became unusually spellbound. Hmm, I thought, maybe this could be a book. Just keep telling those stories. I was ready to call it a book.

A new friend and Published Author pushed me in another direction. Let’s think

Hard Labor of Scone by Scone by Deedie Runkel

of her as my first obstetrician. Or maybe she was a doula. “If you’re really interested in a fine and fabulous offspring, you’re going to have to work much harder,” she wrote. “Embellish. Embroider. Exaggerate.”

In other words, “Write better.” And I thought I was nearly done.

In my recent life, nearly all good things can be traced back to a guest, and what happened next is no exception. One morning not long after aforementioned counsel, a guest said he’d heard I was a writer. “You should do what I’m doing,” he said. “Get your MFA in Writing at UC/Riverside’s Low Residency program.”

The program promised exposure to working writers as professors, agents and publishers in the margins and the discipline of getting it “right.” For me, that translated as getting better at the three “E’s.”

I’d always meant to get my Master’s degree, but family life, a career and a tight budget kept it on a shelf higher than I could reach. Why, all of a sudden, did I want to be a student at 73? Because I wanted to write a book and write it well. 

The joy of regular production assuaged the pain of critical papers, madcap speed reading a dozen books a semester and learning to interact with people a third my age online. Sometimes I had to look up words to understand what they were saying. IMHO was one I learned to love. Only later did I learn they had to do the same with some of my commentary.

Turning in a critical paper was the equivalent for me of contractions. Nothing prepared me for the pain of the rewriting of the rewrite of the rewrite and then the realization that it then needed to be restructured.

Now that I have my MFA, the going is no easier. The book did not pop out after a half hour’s labor or even two years of school.  It’s taken months of writing and rewriting, critical reviews and more rewriting. Once the publisher’s proofs came back, the agony of re-reading what I’d re-read began. Finding a complication. And then another. Would I survive another proof? Would Scone by Scone ever be perfect in every way? 

I’m imagining the joy of holding it in my hand, seeing it on the table at Bloomsbury Books here in Ashland and sending it out across the land.  Maybe it will not be treasured exactly like other hard labor products in my family, but I will for sure cherish the route I took to get it. Even if it was hard labor.

Hard Labor

Hard Labor