Thursday, June 29, 2006 posted by Jen at 6/29/2006 07:37:00 PM
THE GUY NOT TAKEN is done!
With any luck, the manuscript is currently winging its way to New York City.
I say "with any luck" because my laptop self-destructed yesterday. Then, this morning, after three stops, I couldn't find a Fed-Ex box stocked with big envelopes and the attachable labels.
So I split the painstakingly copy-edited, pass-for-print pages into two stacks, put each stack into a standard envelope....and only wrote my credit card number on one of the labels.
If the book isn't in stores, as scheduled, on September 5, this is probably the reason why. It's certainly not my agent's fault. Herewith -- now that I've finally managed to pry it out of her just-let-me-polish-it-one-more-time hands -- is Joanna's account of how the book came into being, and how I finished the final edits (which are different from the final copy edits) on one long weekend in Cape Cod, with my agent, my assistant, and my three-year-old daughter in tow, while my husband was off in Las Vegas for some Internet...political....freedom....thing. (At least, that's his story, and so far he's sticking to it).
"I was delighted to have Jennifer's invitation to be a guest blogger, so I may write about our wonderful weekend in Cape Cod, where Jen was finishing up her next work – a collection of stories entitled The Guy Not Taken. Ever the agent, though, I find I mostly want to write about this new book, which Jen began last fall, after the title story was published in Glamour and her publisher came to us inquiring if she would like to do a collection.
Jen is a short story fan (by the way, if you love story collections, I also recommend The Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg – so good), and she had several stories I never knew about, stored in a Kohl's bag, which she brought up one evening from her Philadelphia basement. There, archived in logo-emblazoned plastic, among many beautiful black and white childhood photos of her and Molly, some color shots from the seventies and eighties, and old letters and such, were original copies of short stories – small scattered stacks of paper, with manually-typed titles like, "Travels with Nicki" and "Just Desserts."
There were two stories Jen originally wrote for John McPhee's writing class at Princeton, one story published over a decade ago in Redbook and another that appeared in Seventeen. Added to that, she had the title story, as well as two others (a prequel to Good In Bed, told from Bruce Guberman's perspective called "Good Men," and another entitled "Dora on the Beach"), and one she had to find (a prize-winning story called "Swim," about a woman who freelances peoples' personal ads).
Over the next seven months (editor's note: at Joanna's whip-cracking request), Jen wrote five new stories; she rewrote "Swim" from scratch and reworked the earlier ones. What's resulted is one of the best books I've ever read – eleven stories about how we love at all the different stages of our life, from a teenage girl whose father deserts her family, to a widow who is hijacked at gun point by two young women from Queens. (Editor's note: yes, she is paid to say that).
So that brings me back to our weekend, where Jen and I found ourselves working at a large oak dining table in her beach house, with me reading over the final draft – audibly sighing, laughing, wiping tears, causing Jen to smile and look up from her typing and ask, "What?" This was the same place we were just one year ago, when Jen was finishing Goodnight Nobody, insisting that she had been placed under "house arrest" until she completed it. (Editor's note: the house arrest part is true. I could look at the beach....I just couldn't go to to the beach.)
This year's house arrest, HA 2006, was good times. During our off-hours, along with Jen's assistant Meghan, we played with Lucy at Longnook beach and flew a kite we named Cape Frog; we ate Spiritus Pizza in Provincetown, where Lucy played bocce ball, and had dinners at Moby Dick's and at a BBQ shack where one of the deer heads on the wall sings Garth Brooks songs, much to Lu's delight. Lucy and I made eggs-in-a-basket for breakfast (Lucy, who at three, can already crack both eggs and jokes with amazing alacrity), and Jen and I went on a forced march (Molly will, perhaps, write this summer and tell you more about the forced marches). (Editor's note: No).
We watched re-runs of The Office and made chicken korma with a great sauce Jen brought from Philly. On rainy nights, Jen made chocolate chip cookies and used my page edits as kindling for fires. (Editor's note: this was very satisfying, and I recommend it highly). But mostly Jen wrote, I read, and Meghan played with Lucy. The last story I read, "Swim," is my favorite, and as I came upon the scene that always makes me cry, I felt lucky. Working with writers, I am constantly astonished. I don't know how Jen comes up with these ideas – like her basement, she seems to trot down into her imagination, and five minutes later, up she comes with a bag full of marvelous, heartbreaking ideas about love. (Editor's note: Yes, except the stories were on the third floor. The tax returns are in the basement. Important distinction!)
It made me feel so lucky that I get to do what I do, especially when overlooking an expansive blue bay view of the water, with Provincetown in the cloudy distance. (Editor's note: Especially since we actually got to go to the beach this time around).
And so that's my guest blog, my gog. Thank you for reading, even though, alas, I'm more Agent Fawn than the very funny Agent Snark . . . And thank you Jen, Meghan, and Lucy for a wonderful weekend!