To Do lists


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.


Sometimes we get so buried in our worries and To Do lists and doubts of our sanity that we can’t see past the glass of white wine in our hands. No, change those pronouns.  I, my.  No use playing Wise Woman to the world.  No use not admitting that I found myself in a really deep funk for a couple of months, a period that included self-medicating to no good end, just morning headaches.
I blamed my bad outlook on the completion of a goal, the paperback publication of Graffiti Grandma, not necessarily a good thing, it turned out.  Because what was next was the ghastly marketing siege that occasionally brought on nightmares involving flaming computer keys and missing fingers and daymares of me tossing my onerous efforts into a bottomless internet abyss, hearing, “Shit. Here she comes again.”
So I explained to my friends that what I loved most was writing, not the marketing.  I didn’t really, really, care that Amazon had sold only four copies of Graffiti Grandma, probably a record of some kind. I began Edith and inched my way through a first draft.
I sold a few more copies to Rotary club members who responded in their helpful ways to my husband’s description of his clever wife’s accomplishment. I think what inspired his support was the box of books he stumbled over every time he walked into our clothes closet. The box emptied. But then Createspace, in some kind of perverted promotion, surprised me with twenty free Graffiti Grandmas. The box remains in the closet.  Rotary can only do so much good.
However, last week something kind of miraculous happened. Trolling through my emails I found one that seemed to be saying that I and Graffiti Grandma had been chosen to be spotlighted in the Kirkus Review publication. Would I be interested?  “Will it cost me money?” I asked.  I am suspicious of out-of-the-blue miracles.  “No. This is for the promotion of your book which, as you know, got a very good Kirkus review.  In fact, the reviewer will be contacting you soon.”
And he did.  And he’s writing the piece as I write this blog, my first in months.
But the miracle is what the miracle did for me. Yesterday, in a surge of self-confidence, I started a list of ways I could promote my book–locally, not to strangers in the ether:  Readings in coffee shops, discussions at book clubs, gatherings in retirement homes, classes in writing at Senior Centers.  I would approach the books stores that have Graffiti Grandma on their shelves and ask to be included on their readings schedules.  I would ask for reviews from the readers of the book who could give it at least three stars.  I would spend the money I’d save by eliminating my medicinal wine to purchase reviews from publications that charge (like Kirkus ) for the privilege of  critiquing it to thousands of people.

Well, maybe not the wine part.  The reviews cost a lot more than the wine and I do like a celebratory glass once in a while, after a busy day of checking off items on this new To Do list.

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