I’m lucky, in a lot of ways. One of them? Date night for Birth-entine’s Day with my gorgeous husband, tonight, fully planned by him and complete with color printouts, google maps, and tabbed folders. Turning 45 could be worse.
Another way I’m lucky? We are teenager/child-free this weekend. Or at least we think we are. We won’t know we’re not until the door crashes open and they barrel into our room, but we intend to give them an eyeful if they do. Hey, kids are resilient, mental scars heal.
Yet another way I’m lucky? That even though Eric and I have to work both days this weekend, we are doing it (right now) (no, not THAT it; get your mind out of the gutter) at his office. We used to work together before we became us, and I miss this. I loved this. This doesn’t suck.
But those are everyday sorts of luck. Some of my luck only comes along once in awhile, but when it comes, it is extra sweet. Thanks in part to the coincidence of locations I travel to for work, I occasionally meet my online friends IRL (duh, In Real Life, get with the pop culture, people). I’m bummed no clients have sent me to Midland yet to meet my critique partner Heidi Dorey or Arkansas to meet Nan Lloyd, but I am psyched that one jetted me to Los Angeles where I met…my editor, Meghan Pinson! I guess she doesn’t really count as a friend, per se, but I adore her, I pay her, and she puts up with me. A whole lot of me. 160,000 words and counting of me. Eric would like to point out that he puts up with approximately 200,000 daily, but, hello, we’re talking about written words, not my incoherent ramblings about my hormones.
Meghan completes me, y’all. She really does. When I am too tired to putz with perfection another second, when I prematurely send her something that may not be my best effort but is the best I can force out of myself at that moment, Meghan does not flog me. She has admitted that occasionally in a particularly difficult section of my work she might calculate and recalculate her billing and wring her hands, but I balance it with occasional brilliance. Or so she says, because she ain’t a turnip.
So Meghan dined with me when I was in the worst part of my yeast free diet hell, in Carson, California. Carson is not a destination of choice for the culinary elite. Carson is a working man’s town. In Carson, all the lettuce eating poofs from up north in Beverly Hills will eat fried food, and they will like it. We did find a Panera’s with a super-cheerful employee, and we won’t blame her for the Montezuma’s Revenge that struck the next day.
By this point, Meghan and I had worked together for three months and were on our 4th book. We had talked about my writing, my grammar, my style, my chapter structure, my capitalization, my naming conventions, my poetry, my sense of humor, and my my my my my so much that I cringed with self-loathing and guilt. Meghan is the foremost authority on all things Pamela, whether she wants to be or not. I call her first to see what I’m going to do next now, for real. So there was no way I would force her through significantly more Pamela, and definitely not through more talk about PAMELA’S BOOKS.
We just talked. About Meghan, who is interesting, loves grammar for the sake of grammar, and has (a lot) of eletric hair in a perfect red. She is smart and wise and sweet and spiritual. We talked about her family. About proper versus acceptable versus most reader-centric comma placement. About LA. About her college years. About her writing, her poetry, her editing, her clients, her style. And it was wonderful. Sure, we got sidetracked on Pamela a few times, and even PAMELA’S BOOKS, briefly. But mostly we chatted and became friends.
Working with Meghan has come at the point in my writing where I thirst for feedback on what is wrong, not what is right. I am sick of hearing how awesome PAMELA’S BOOKS and writing are. OK, I’ll admit that’s a lie. I still love to hear that. But I love even more when someone confirms my intuition about a section that doesn’t flow, or says “don’t you think this paragraph works better here?” Even when they say “you need to work harder at this, it isn’t up to your standard,” or worse yet, “delete these chapters and write new ones.” Instead of reaching for the Blue Bell, I do a cartwheel into the splits, from which I am unable to get up, because I am way too old for cartwheels and I can’t really do the splits anymore. It’s a nice dream, though.
Meghan worries that she’ll bruise my ego with her feedback. I can say without reservation that I have exulted over her every word. I am elated over the revised manuscripts. I am proud of the pieces that have come together and are standing in line waiting for their debutante ball in May.
Our short evening ended, me off to my hotel, her on an adventure. The verdict? I love her online. I love her on the phone. And I loved her even more IRL. It turns out, I love editors. Editors, the goddess creatures able to spin your words into gold, to cut the snakes from Medusa’s head without turning your manuscript to stone, to balance the worlds you create on their backs keeping your dreams bright in the sky. Editors. Wonderful, awesome editors.
Now we must leave our shiny meeting with Meghan and move back into the dreary world of work and rewrites. But not without a final preachy word of advice from moi:
Writers, wannabes, dreamers, and all of you who yearn to try the entrepreneurial non-traditional route for your books: don’t short cut the pain, don’t skip the years of effort, don’t publish just for the sake of publishing. First, work with critique groups. Choose the most vicious and merciless writing companions. No circle jerks, no ego strokes, just truth. Suffer. Doubt yourself. It’s not in vain, I promise. When the critiques dwindle into compliments, when you grow sick of the praise, when you know there is work left to do and are ready to by God do it, go find a good editor. Go find your Meghan. You’ll be ready for her. You’ll appreciate her. You’ll name your cat after her.
And maybe you’ll even end up with books you’ll be proud to publish.
p.s. No, I haven’t named a cat after Meghan. Theoretically, however, I would. I absolutely would.
p.p.s. I am aware I used a watermarked piece of clip art that screams “Pamela was too cheap to pay the low cost monthly subscription!” How could I resist, though, when this looked *exactly* like me? OK, it’s because as I draft this, I’m in a hurry. If someone sends me something better later, I’ll replace it.