Fat Stacks (of paper)

I’m finally back to work after my long, fantastic Christmas vacation and recovery from that vacation. The job is the almost-final round of edits on the novel due out in a year or so. A big undertaking. Sometimes tedious. Always satisfying. In many ways it’s the best part of a project. I’m done being scared and unsure; now I polish. Exchange passive verbs for active ones. Coax characters into more interesting moves than shrugging, smiling, and sighing. Eradicate scores of adverbs and adjectives. Sand transitions smoother.

Yesterday I cleaned my loft office in preparation for printing the book and reading it out loud. (Softly.)

Here’s a portion of the acres of paper I’ve produced in regard to this story:

Fat Stacks of Paper

There is more where that came from.

If I ponder all the iterations, the stops and restarts and angst, my shoulders droop. At the same time, I’m filled with contentment. I sat in front of the wood stove just over there, following my character to the local tavern in her search for a place to rent. Here, the fire crackled; in the story, the juke box played Warren Zevon and and an old friend showed up and rubbed her shoulders. I rode the ferry to Beaver Island listening to Of a Revolution sing “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” through my ear buds; the sun shone, the lake chopped, a chummy mahogany-colored lab wandered about the boat deck, and then right into the manuscript.

One night in the winter of 2015, I lay on my couch, itchy with panic. I phoned my late brother, Matt. Words tumbled; I stared wide-eyed into the dark as I scratched around for a way to make this book work. I asked his advice for a section of the action. As a man and as a middle school principal, he knew a lot about a great many things.

My panic receded as we talked; I slept better that night than I had in a while. It bloomed again many times, but what a treasure that bleak evening is now. And there near the end of the third quarter of the story–there’s where I was working. Matt is gone but his help lives on.

On another day that winter, he gave me a bit of input I jotted down on a one-inch Post-it. It turned up in the cleaning yesterday. I nodded at it, smiling. I’ll keep it, and the paper, close.

"I think you should focus on why they did do something, rather than why they didn't," Matt said.

Category: At Home, Life, Words 8 comments »

8 Responses to “Fat Stacks (of paper)”

  1. Mary Vecellii

    Wonderful Ellen. I can hear him speak those words with his booming voice!

  2. Peggy O'Neill Clarke

    Ellen! Some years ago a friend from Marquette gifted me with an autographed copy of “South of Superior”, which I read with great interest. I am sincerely looking forward to your upcoming novel, and enjoying your recent blog entries. Keep them coming; they are like a warm blanket to cuddle up in while awaiting your new novel.
    Peggy Clarke, Ontario Canada

  3. ellenair

    Peggy, what a lovely compliment! Thank you.

  4. Sheri

    Cannot wait…love that there will be a bit of Matt in the finished product!!

  5. Amy Moore

    I still want your fish chowder recipe. Huge fan of that *and* your writing!

  6. ellenair

    Amy, My husband is in charge of the fish chowder! He does use lots of rich ingredients–whole organic milk, for example. Peas and corn, onion and celery… I don’t know the details, I just enjoy it!

  7. Joanne Bollinger

    On my last visit in September we chatted about progress. Despite your laryngitis, I heard the hope, while learning about the many steps remaining before we will be able to hold your book in our hands. The hope remains strong, there are obviously many revisions (with expletives deleted?) ahead, but I’m loving your optimism. Your “voice” is strong!

    They raise lots of chickens in Zambia. I think Prairie Evers could be a take-along! I better do a re-read.

  8. ellenair

    Joanne, Prairie in Zambia–I adore that! Please do take her along. She is an adventurer and will be a good companion, I predict. Thank you for your kind words about voice. And for reminding me of the laryngitis. I’d forgotten! How time flies. ;)

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