10 March 2008

New Babe in the Woods

previously published on Six LDS Writers & A Frog

You know that scene at the beginning of Dumbo where all the animals sit around, looking up and waiting for the stork to bring their new arrivals? I can’t help but think about that in relation to the Six Writers blog. I’ll never be expecting a new baby person like Sariah (Wilson) and Julie (Bellon), but like Jeff (Savage) and Stephanie (Black), I am awaiting a new little addition to my bookshelf. I have a fully-charged camera, a clean resting place for the little darling, and even a stack of “birth” announcements. Everything is ready and waiting – especially me! Where is that stupid stork that brings the books, anyway?

This is not a new or even an original analogy. I’ve often heard authors – female authors, at least – compare their freshly-printed books to newborn babies. As a mother of four children and author of ten books, let me assure you it’s not quite that incredible. But it is thrilling. And every single time it happens, I’m amazed and grateful and surprised all over again.

I’ve long identified with a feeling expressed by Sir James Barrie, author of Peter Pan. After describing the harrowing delivery of Auld Licht Idylls, he wrote: “For several days after my first book was published, I carried it around in my pocket and took surreptitious peeks at it to be sure the ink had not faded.” That’s exactly how I feel!

When the FedEx stork finally arrives, you can count on me to carry my new delivery around for awhile, taking peeks now and then to check its coloring and make sure it has all its little periods and commas in the right places. I might even wrap it up and take it to church on Sunday to show it off to my visiting teachers – and anybody else I can corner in the hallway on the way to Primary. I can certainly count on it to be well-behaved. It will not spit up, drool on my dress, nor cry loud enough to wake the high priests. And while it probably could use a change, there’s nothing I can do about that at this late date.

My main concern is that, like Dumbo and other tragic children of lit, it will be an offspring only its mother will love. It is, after all, a book of nonfiction – an oddity around here. Since all its siblings at home - and cousins here on the blog - are novels, how will it possibly fit in? Will the other books make fun of it? What if they mock its essays? Envy its hardcover? Laugh at its long name, sneering over the pretention of calling it witty or wise? (I never called it that, BTW. Please direct jeers toward Covenant’s title committee.) Worse, what if it’s scorned by society at large and soon sent to languish in the obscurity of a dark, dreary warehouse? Can’t you see it now? “Please, sir. I want some more.” (Marketing, that is.)

Nevertheless, it’s on its way into the world as we speak. (And I thought it was hard when one of my children merely went to Iraq.) If it’s true that “children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see,” are not books the written messages we send to people and places we may never see? What a blessing it is, then, when they report back!

The book has been out for something like three days now, and I already have a dozen “letters from the mission field.” Books grow up really fast! (As Groucho Marx said, “A five-year-old could follow my reasoning; please find a five-year-old to explain it to you.) Just last week, several strangers in Utah adopted the book I have not yet seen, took it home, and wrote this morning to say how much they like it. I cried. (Gratitude; joy; that kind of thing. While people are usually too polite to go out of their way to point out the deformities and shortcomings they find in your children, this is not always true of your books.) One lady was really gushy! She concluded her e-mail with, “I’ve already copied the essay about the church and sent it to everybody in my address book. I hope you don’t mind. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”

I don’t mind. Many of the pieces in Counting Blessings were on the Internet to begin with – on the Frog Blog, in fact. If it weren’t for The Frog . . . and Sariah, and Jeff, and Jennie (Hansen), and Stephanie, and you . . . I would have no new book. I’m so grateful, and I want to show it. While you can’t give away a child (as much as you want to some days) you can give away a book. To follow the example of wise and wonderful LDS Publisher, everyone who has commented on any post on this blog this week, or who comments on any post next week, is eligible for a drawing for a free copy. (This is in addition to the copy I'm giving away on the Frog Blog, of course!)

All I ask if you win - or if you stumble upon Counting Blessings on a shelf somewhere out in the big, wide world - is that you pat it on the head and speak a word of encouragement or two. (It would be even better if you took it home! Hint. Hint.) After all, it’s new and small and very insecure -- just a babe in the woods of publishing.

1 comment:

Marta O. Smith said...

And isn't that just the cutest little cover you've ever seen?