Finishing a Book, and a Summer, Too

My summer as a faculty member at George Fox University has gone something like this:

  • In early May, we commemorated the end of another school year with graduation, at which several faculty peers and I enjoyed taking selfies marking the transition to summer. We were happy: four months without grading essays! graduation
  • A few days later, give or take, my own children were off for the summer, and I began fretting about how I was going to keep them busy while also working on our book project.

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  • And then it was July. Emails started arriving about faculty meetings and some kind of “retreat” that really was no retreat, just meetings that last a little longer than normal, with better snacks than usual.
  • After two or three more days, it will be August 15, and we will be back on contract, preparing like mad women for the start of classes, another batch of first-year students, and a return to grading essays, along with the renewed resolve to do better! and grade faster! and avoid naps under the desk!

sadness Oh, and while our summer was flashing by at warp speed, Kendra and I were working on a book, the August 1 deadline for our manuscript looming large over our shoulder. I thought especially about that deadline whenever I loaded up another episode of “Orange is the New Black” for viewing. (“Shouldn’t you be writing?” I might ask myself. “Just a little bit more of the show, please,” I would beg. Usually the self-lacking-delayed-gratification won out.)

When we were awarded a book contract in early February, August 1 seemed so far away, and also, not very far away at all. After our initial celebratory phone calls, we got to work, developing a plan of action that would help us finish on deadline. Thank goodness we have similar work habits, avoid procrastination, and prefer getting projects completed with time to spare. This made our collaboration easier on both of us, I’m sure. And easier on me, definitely, because Kendra is a grace-filled woman, kind and encouraging.

We’ve been writing ever since February, then: that is, when we haven’t been teaching classes, leading trips to Ireland and hosting German exchange students (in Kendra’s case) or trying to keep preteens busy (in mine). We’ve gone through moments of despair, when we were sure no one would read or understand what we were saying. Minutes later, we would feel absolutely positive that our book would win the Pulitzer Prize, for sure. Or at least, find a few interested readers. Luckily, we didn’t journey through the cycle of despair and hopefulness at the same speed, and usually one of us could talk the other out of a deep funk, one of a thousand reasons having a writing partner can be a good, good thing.

And then, after reading through our entire manuscript far too many times, we were done. Before our deadline, in fact. We celebrated in our own ways, 2000 miles apart from each other, but grateful for an amazing partnership that has kept us connected and together. (My celebration included watching the last episode of season one’s “Orange is the New Black” with a friend and enjoyed all the junk food she bought for the occasion.)

In my job as a writing teacher, I often hear students compare how long their finished essays are, as if length alone might be a marker for a work’s goodness, or for a writer’s efforts. Yet I felt a little bit of pride (but only a little: I’m Mennonite, after all) when we sent our publisher a manuscript 370 pages long. Those 370 pages represent a lot of thinking, a lot of work, and a lot of missed episodes of reality television. They also represent a rich experience of working with a really smart collaborator, for which I’m grateful. Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 9.51.24 PM Hopefully, now we can get back to blogging more regularly. And also, you know, getting ready for our fall classes, which seem now to be only a few hours away.