A Writing Life

Last Monday I emailed Hachette a big translation I had been working on for them. That is the last translation job I’m going to take.

I spent the last week grading exam papers, and, after giving a further round of exams this Wednesday, will grade another pile of papers and hand them in by Friday. And then I will be done at the university.

So next Monday, January 11, 2010, I will start my new career. As a writer. Excuse me while I do a little dance.

Ok, I’m done now. It feels funny to say, “I am a writer.” Pretentious even. It reminds me of one of my grad school classmates at the Courtauld Institute, who, the day after we got our M.A., had business cards printed up with his name and title: “Art Historian”. Yes, after two years at the hallowed institution, and the in-depth research theses we had to write, which were printed up into little hardcover books and stowed away somewhere in the murky depths of the underground school library where no one will ever see them again, I guess we could all have been considered Art Historians. But it’s not the kind of thing you go around telling people. At least until you’ve done something to really earn it.

And even then…

I feel weird changing my professional status to delete “translator” and “teacher” to just leave “writer” on my blog profile. In case whoever reads it is tempted to roll their eyes.

My friend Mags said, “Why can’t you just relax and enjoy your success?” Well, because 1.) the word “relax” is missing from my personal dictionary and 2.) I was not only raised with a Protestant work ethic, but my genes are coated in a double protein-wrap of Nazarene guilt on both sides of my bloodline. I’m doomed to a life of self-criticism and severe workaholism.

So as I angst over whether or not I deserve, or even dare, to call myself a writer, I am coming to grips with the fact that writing is what I am going to be doing from now on. Full time. For at least the next few years.

From what I’ve been told, in a couple of weeks I will receive what’s called the “editorial letter” from my editor, Tara. In it will be her thoughts and suggestions for changes to SLEEPWALKING. I will have around six weeks to make the changes. Then she reads back over it again, and will quite likely have one more round of changes. (She told me that two-rounds-of-changes is usually how she works.) The final draft has to be in by May 1.

Then The Machine takes over, and Sleepwalking will go through whatever processes a book goes through before it lands on the shelves around May 2011, one year later. All sorts of fun advertising things will be taking place in the meantime, apparently. I can’t wait to tell you about those, but will restrain myself until someone tells me I can.

But that’s all beside the point that my second book is scheduled to come out around May 2012, and the third a year later. Which means I have a lot of writing to do. And let me tell you…I am so raring to go. Which raises the practical question-of-the-moment: where, exactly, is it that I am raring to go to?

Although I might run away for a week after I get the editorial letter, just to think over things, I can’t spend the next two-and-a-half years holed up in Nicolas’s castle or Cassi’s apartment or one of my other secret hideouts. I have two kids, a husband, and a dog who, although they could probably survive without me, would notice if I were gone.

So Laurent and his dad have gotten to work on the Boulangerie, picking up where I left off: a shell of an office with electricity provided by an extension cords running across the lawn from my bedroom window. It’s perfect for summer, as long as I block up the pane-less window to keep birds from coming in and nesting in the ceiling. But in the winter I might as well be sitting in the yard with my laptop. So they are planning on installing a window and door, plugging up the chimney, and setting me up with a little fuel-run heater that my FIL has in his barn. As I type this, they’re out there doing the prep work: scraping the loose plaster from the stone walls and replacing decayed stones.

I will have my own little writer’s cottage, a book to polish and two to write, and several other ideas that are lurking in my brain just waiting around on the sidelines. And although I’m not going to go out and get t-shirts printed, or even business cards for that matter, after Monday, I might just get up the nerve to change my stated profession to “writer”.

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