10 Confessions of an author-publisher

1. I would rather do anything than mop the floor. Come up with this list, for example.

2. I got my MA in fiction writing because I didn’t want to have to pass a French exam. I may have also been avoiding some additional expensive GRE component. I was such an idiot in those days that I didn’t even read the work of the writing professors I would be studying with before applying. Mind you, I mostly wanted to get out of editing technical articles about the Radio Shack TRS-80, and UNH did pay my way with a teaching assistantship. And I discovered that I loved teaching. So it worked out okay on that front, but after two years of graduate writing seminars I developed a strong preference for going out and living my life rather than writing small, artful stories. Which, in hindsight, was probably healthy.

3. I will do almost anything to avoid calling someone. I have to put it on a calendar and work myself up to a phone call. I am not terrible once I’m on the phone, but I dread getting on it. My (separated) husband likes to Skype, and my dad enjoys doing Facetime on his iPad. Oh, the horror! That supplies everything uncomfortable about the phone, plus wondering if your hair is combed and how messy the room behind you looks. Also, just saying goodbye becomes strangely long and drawn out.

4. I have thrown at least fifty boxes of books in the dumpster. People donate a lot of bestsellers to the thrift store where I volunteer and we have limited space. By the time we get the latest Danielle Steel just about everybody who wants it has already read it. Yes, there are ways to recycle books, but we haven’t quite figured out how to work it into our system yet. I have to tell you, it makes me feel pretty virtuous publishing e-books.

5. Reading often feels like work now. Do heterosexual male gynecologists get jaded about ladies’ private parts when they’re off the job? I’d love to just lose myself in a book, but I’m often hyper aware of other writers’ craft. Also, I have such a pile of books that I really should read in addition to the ones I just want to read that I feel I will never catch up. It’s a bad zone to get into.

6. I hide chocolate. I go days when I don’t eat it, but I like to know it’s there.

a photograph of the author's messy office

My messy office

7. I work in appalling disorder. About once every six months I organize my office and keep it that way for a week or two. Strangely, I usually find things much faster when it’s a mess.

8. Social media feels a little too much like high school. On the plus side, I get to hang out at the lunch table with my friends. But sometimes I post something and get crickets and feel like an awkward fifteen-year-old again. Or nobody favorites or retweets or follows me on Twitter for a stretch and I wonder if I’ve developed bad digital breath.

9. I can’t proofread my own stuff worth sh*t. Nobody can, but this time around my attempts were much less successful. Maybe I’m just older, but changing a manuscript from first person present to third person past is also an editing nightmare. A friend just pointed out more typos that I missed in my last book. He also offered to beta-read next time. (Both of those are being a very good friend.)

10. I named a heroine after an outhouse. It’s true. When I picked tobacco as a field hand for Consolidated Cigar Company in the Connecticut River valley of Western Massachusetts between high school and college, the outhouses were called Mollies. I always wondered how they’d gotten that name and what it must have been like to be the original Molly. Those girls could be pretty mean. (You didn’t want to be IN the Molly when they decided it would be fun to rock it.) But Molly in The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire already had enough to deal with, so the only thing I did with my summer of picking shade tobacco was crash David’s plane into a field of it.

Here’s one of the songs the girls would sing lustily on the bus or at lunch (to the tune of “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener”):

Oh, I wish I were a CCC tobacco barn.
That is what I’d really like to be,
‘Cuz if I were a CCC tobacco barn,
All the boys would be inside of me!

Yes, I sang it, too. Adolescent girls are just not the sweet, innocent little dears you might like to think they are.

Any confessions of your own to offer? (And here’s one of those points when I might hear nothing but crickets. Ha!)