For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a book.
In fact, I did just that about six years ago. With pride I mailed a very rough 175 or so page manuscript to my former Assoc. Press national editor. After all, he was in charge of all the A.P. book reviews in thousands of U.S. newspapers. Who would know better than him when he saw a book of profound and great quality? (Little did I know at the time, however, he was probably glad it arrived in a plain brown envelope. All the better not to be associated with what he was about to critique.)
In short, he asked me ever so gently and in great kindness, ‘does this seem very rough to you?’ That’s friend-to-friend code for “this stinks.” Pride goeth before the fall according to the Book of Proverbs. Look up the idiom ‘tail between my legs’ and you’ll know how I really felt then – and now, too.
In truth, however, any writer worth her or his salt ought to be tough enough and professional enough to respect the thoughts and criticisms of equally professional editors. I took his low key pan of the book in grateful stride. He’d of done me no favor to bestow faint, tepid praise upon it if only to avoid bruising my feelings. He did me the greatest favor of all.
So, what was this potential – no, sure fire! – New York Times best seller?
On letters, of course.
Ever since that soft thud of the go-no-further-with-this landing, the manuscript has remained untouched and gathered dust below my TV. If I’d had a shredder back then it might well have ended up in a compost bin somewhere. Indeed, that utter failure led directly to the creation of this blog. Deep down I felt there was something to letters even if I wasn’t skilled enough to put my finger on it.
Times are a changing, however. Momentum is building toward another stab at this topic. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make, I think, is to re-write what has already deserved the round file treatment. Instead, ‘the bomb’ has gestated to the point where it makes great sense to me to approach V2 from another angle altogether. It will be a wholesale reinvention of the wheel. Ellen and Reid know a revision is in the works and they’ll have something of a hand in its creation.
This must be what retirement does to a guy. It makes him think of literary greatness although if it ever gets to the stage of a publisher, I can only hope they’ll let me down as gently as my friend Norm did a half dozen years ago.