Maybe it’s the smoke graying the air and the hills lining our windows. Maybe it’s the muffled quietness of the house, the streets outside, the subdued rooms in our apartment, so silent that my husband is asleep with the NY Times in his lap.  Bored, I sip my third cup of coffee trying to focus on the To Do list in front of me.

We are in a period of waiting.

We are waiting for a doctor’s call to set a surgery date; waiting for a piece of mail with news of a query sent to a magazine; waiting for a friend’s call to ease our anxiety about her health; waiting for a pill to lessen the pain in my knee; waiting for good news from a son who is also waiting; waiting for a cooler moment to walk to the grocery for food for tonight’s dinner; waiting for the TV show that is our habit each evening and makes us believe, at least for a moment, in the media’s ability to tell us today’s truth.

When we get a surgery date for Don, if I get a response from the magazine, when my friend calls, when I take a chance on walking to the store, after all this waiting, I will begin to understand that waiting is never over. New waitings will arise. I know this because of a call I got just now which ended one of the waitings I’ve been living with: the publication of my next novel.

I had plans for the book’s arrival, a To Do list of promotions, readings, newsletter notes, a launch with champagne, maybe. Then the call came.  My publisher informed me that instead of a firm launch date, she is going out of business—on the day she had set for my book to be born.

That waiting is over. At first I felt relieved. My To-Do list dissolved. I could …
even … Then she suggested I try self-publishing. “You’ve done it before,” she reminded me.

I have given the idea some thought since her call. My story is an okay one, one I’d like to see in print. I’m thinking that maybe I can even change its title, the awful one given to it by the now-gone publisher. Maybe, maybe.

So now I’m beginning the wait for my book to be born.  Again. My To Do list has changed, is growing complicated. I need to clean off my desk, get organized, learn how to deal with the digitalized materials that I’ll be sent, leftovers from my publisher’s emptied files. I will re-title the book, create a new cover, plead for help from Createspace. Probably cry at least once.

But I won’t have time to notice the gray smoke.

One More Time. . .

            I’ve just finished a novel that I like a lot. Edith! Finished!

            This morning I found myself copying down information on fourteen agents who say they are looking for fiction.  Already. I have begun the mental process of composing the hook of the first line of the query letters I will send out. Edith, a disappointed old woman, doesn’t much care that her husband of forty-seven years is laying dead next to her.  Her mind is on the Christmas strata she’s to bake in an hour or so.  Too long? Too depressing?  Not appealing to anyone except maybe other cranky old women? Try again.
            This research, mulling, word crunching is not an unknown activity to me.  I’ve sent out hundreds of queries in the past.  And received hundreds of rejections which were stuck in a desk drawer until I realized how much negative energy I was absorbing from them, coupled with the anxious weeks of silence that followed my electronic submissions.  I’m not sure why I’m thinking of trying one more time to find an agent.  Perhaps I just need the ego-boost an acceptance would bring. Or perhaps I remember the several lonely year-long efforts I’ve plowed through to sell my books.  Or maybe I’m looking for a knowledgeable hired hand who knows how to find the best publisher for Edith.  And once found, it’s possible I would benefit from the publisher’s experts in the design process, in the distribution to bookstores and airport terminals, and even in getting of a newspaper review or two. 
            All these reasons for sending out query letters ring true as I evaluate them, but one more thought keeps rising unbidden to the surface.  “Yes,” I would really like to say. “Yes, I have an agent–she’s terrific!” when friends and fellow writers ask.  I know, this is shallow, very shallow, but that is where I am right now, as I shuffle through Agent Query one more time. 
            But I do wonder.  Am I alone in this compulsion?  Do any of my other writing acquaintances, mostly self-published like me, ever spend a day wondering what it would be like to have a sympathetic partner, an agent, in this process? If so, what have they done about it?  Did they find one? Or did they come to their senses and return to the realities of indie publishing?  Will I?


So, most of the corrections have been made and Graffiti Grandma looks almost the way I had imagined her: good font,  clean, readable pages, most if not all glitches caught and corrected. Except. Somehow she’s wearing a faded yellow nightgown of a cover, instead of the planned, vibrant, even shocking, orange ensemble. She will not reach out and grab any perspective reader not matter how hard she tries inside.
So she’s returned for a makeover.  It will take another five days, then I’ll be sent another proof. And then I’ll be forced to face reality. I’m thinking of telling my publisher to take his time. I’m not ready to begin marketing. 
I know this because I spent the weekend re-reading old articles from writers’ magazines, reading blogs, printing out email offers, looking for advice from marketing gurus who somehow know I’m about to launch a self-published book.
Launch. An  interesting concept.
I’ve only launched one thing in my life, and the word pulls the experience out of the archives that have stored it for seventy years. World War II. My school was having a war bonds assembly. Each class was to give a short patriotic skit, and since our teacher’s husband was stationed somewhere in the Pacific, we built a wooden replica of his ship which we were to launch as we sang “Anchors Away.” Several of us believed we should be the girl to crack the bottle across its bow, but Shirley was chosen, probably because, rather than canning jars and milk bottles, she brought in a pretty perfume bottle bound in ribbons. At the end of our song, Shirley stepped up and took a whack at our ship, but the bottle didn’t break. Another whack. After the third attempt, the teacher grabbed a rope attached to the stern and yanked, and the ship, now dented with parts dropping off, slid down its slide and into blue painted waves. We clapped as the curtain closed. Shirley broke into wails, and some of us smirked as we patted her shaking shoulders.
What I need right now is someone to pull the rope for me. I do not need a perfume-bottle-with-ribbons plan, but marketing support that will get Graffiti Grandma to go down the slide and out into the great sea of books. Could I at this very moment be deciding to hire one of those people on the internet offering to do just that?   
l also wonder if a few on-lookers will be hiding smiles when Graffiti Grandma’s curtain closes.  No matter. “Anchor’s aweigh” means that the anchor is raised and clear of the sea and therefore, the ship is officially underway. I look forward to the voyage.

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