Some of my friends have a lovely tradition of reporting not resolutions but a theme that might shape their year, and without much thought I know what mine must be. I feel a need to speak more loudly. Perhaps not in my poetry or prose, which I prefer not to blare. But in my writing career, I want to come into 2013 wearing bigger, louder boots. My lack of patience may be as imperceptible as a sigh, but I mean to move a few tables, if not let the dinnerware crash.
As many of you know, it’s a tricky time for writers, with the number of publishers and bookstores shrinking. I’ve spent much of the past two years hunkered over a novel avoiding the fact that other manuscripts have been sitting in mailboxes. I’ve been quiet because I know editors, like writers, are having a hard time, and I can tell myself it’s considerate to wait. But handing over work to people who practice “if you don’t hear, we don’t want it” means long silences, which too easily shapes into a sense that my work isn’t good enough. This year, I don’t mean to harass, but I intend to steel myself to enquire perhaps after six to eight weeks instead of as many months. I don’t want to look greedy, wanting my work to be published, or unpopular, making it known that editors aren’t rushing to snag my work. I don’t want to be Anna Karenina in her theater box, with people raising their eyebrows behind their opera glasses. But I’ve got to take some things into my own hands.
A few months ago, Michael Dooling, who beautfully illustrated two picture books I wrote, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon and Anne Hutchinson’s Way, joined forces to reprint these books which Farrar, Straus and Giroux let go out of print. We won’t make much money, but we both want the books available to children who want to know about these important women. I feel energized by my first small venture into independent publishing, partly because it is small. Mike and I aren’t overwhelming ourselves with big plans, and we don’t have to, since print-on-demand means we don’t have stock to store and sell. Next, I want to reprint a novel, Becoming Little Women, whose rights were granted back from Putnam.
I’ve also decided to publish a collection of some of my blog posts about writing. I’ve been treating my work like an engaged editor, free with knife and pen, and one of the pleasures is that I don’t have to wonder about who will publish Views from the Window Seat. I will, using some of what I’ve learned by writing and selling eleven books. And if a dozen people are willing to pay for it, I’ll be happy.
Peter has encouraged me re self-publishing for years, but I still hope to work with an editor who isn’t me and to publish books that may find smoother paths to libraries and stores. I’m also more open to changing the plan, feeling perhaps like an athlete who swapped teams, and found herself sitting on the bench. That player might start her own team, though she’s not thrilled to hunt down teammates, locate equipment, and keep all the balls and fences in shape. But she’d rather play on a field whose borders aren’t well-marked than not play at all.
I want to use a louder voice for what seems worthwhile for me to say and simply see what happens. And you, who took the time to read this: thank you. You matter more than you may know.