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March 15, 2014: The Writing Life: Meeting the Editor

Today was the day – the day that I was to meet James Engelhardt, the University of Alaska Press editor. As writer Kurt Vonnegut once said “and so it goes.”

Meeting James – him, the experience -- it was sort of like being on a bicycle tour and coming to a town, a town you’d pictured in your mind – it was not the same (of course) as expected, but once there, you accept it as such.

I’d expected the press office to be on the University of Alaska campus hill, in one of the large buildings, but it was not. It was in a small white house off of

College Road. I also expected James to be far older, have shorter hair, be a bit portly, and somewhat sedentary. The James I met was young, had near shoulder length hair, was rail thin, was constantly in movement. My first impression was that he could at one point in time have been one of my freshman composition students. If this were so, I would have given myself a pat on the back for a job well done. I was also old enough to be his grandmother. My daughter would have given herself a pat on the back for a job well done.

James is a poet, thinks like a poet, acts like a poet. He easily free associates, makes seemingly tangential connections, makes literary references. (I was familiar with most of the writers he spoke of.)

A genuinely nice guy. I think.

I wondered what he thought of me a gray haired, older woman – undoubtedly he was disappointed that I was not younger, more attractive, dressed to the nines.

But, after setting aside our preconceived notions of what we thought one another should be, we moved on. We talked for an hour-and-a-half, about writing, about sustainability, about the composing process of dissertators, about (finally) my proposal, which sat on a coffee table, between the two of us.

I realized as we talked that I had the age/writing experience edge. Yep, I had been down this road before – that is the writing hubba hubba road. I am now very adept at getting feedback from editors and can easily sift through what they have to say. I am also good at being simpering and grateful for whatever useful comments come my way.

This was an instance of that. Now, I understand that I need to move my main idea forward, and tell readers how I managed (in the face of homesteading adversity) during this time to sustain myself as a writer. Huh. Good food goes in, and bad prose comes out. Or, something like that.

We came up with a three week deadline. It was somewhat arbitrary. But it was nevertheless, a deadline.

The proposal, if and when it is ever complete, will next go to an outside reader, who will determine if it’s a worthy book project. If it is, it will next be presented, by James, to the board, who will then give it an aye or a nay. Then, if it is given an aye, I will get a contract in which I agree to write the book. Then I must in a certain amount of time, produce a book. I will generate, revise, copy edit, and do more of the same.

If said book is roundly rejected, I will find another line of work. I am now okay with this prospect. This is because I will go down knowing that I gave this and all the other projects that preceded it my all. I don’t have much more to give.

James liked the idea of my including artwork, since I am writing about the link between art and the writing process.

I would like to get this done and move on to the next project because I have done the reconceptualizing that is involved in writing a book.

I am, I says to James in conclusion, glad to have gotten this far in the proposal writing scheme of things. But, I says to myself, let’s push this proposal envelope through the mail slot and see just how far it will go before being swept to the side.

Next: 75. 3/16/14: Horse Care: Worried