Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Reaching the Momentous Momentum

My brother Fred once defined poverty and wealth as being on the moving walkway at the airport. Wealth is when you move with the walkway. Even if you sit on your suitcase and rest for a bit, you're still moving forward.

Poverty is when you're moving against the walkway. If you work really hard, you can stay in the same spot. If you rest for just a bit, you move backwards. It's awfully hard to catch up and almost impossible to make meaningful progress.

The analogy works with writing as well.

When you're a beginner, it seems the system is against you. Editors have never heard of you. You don't have connections in the industry. Readers are skeptical.

At that stage, it takes an awful lot of work to make progress. You have to research markets, figure out writers' guidelines, contact editors, submit your work, and keep hoping.

If you're a blogger, you have to keep writing, posting, and—if you want to increase your readership more quickly—commenting on others' blogs so they'll come visit yours. If you take time off, readership drops immediately.

If you keep at it for the long haul, the magic day will come when you suddenly realize that you're going the right way on the moving walkway. The momentum is with you and not against you.  You can take a break and pick up pretty much where you left off. Other people decide to promote your work, so you don't have to do it all yourself.

Editors call you.

And you can sit on your suitcase and just breathe for a bit.

As I'm sure I've explained before, Good Books, which published my first three books, was bought by Skyhorse Publishing.  Recently, Skyhorse decided to publish my three books under one cover and a new title, Sunlight Through Dusty Windows, due out in September.

Some weeks later, I received an email with all sorts of documents and information. This person is your editor, it said, and that one is your publicist. Fill out the publicity forms first, so we can give your book as much exposure as possible. And here's what you can expect throughout the process.

I was a bit stunned.

Good Books had never gone to this much trouble, and certainly with self-publishing I never had anyone invest that much effort on my behalf.

It was like suddenly having cooks and servants rush in my door to set things in order and prepare a gourmet meal.

There's only one teeny little problem with this process: the book will contain material I wrote ten, fifteen, even seventeen years ago.  We all progress and improve as we keep writing, at least I hope we do, and most of us find it a weensy bit appalling embarrassing painful to not only re-read material we wrote back then, but to see it marketed to reviewers and readers and bookstores.

Oh well.

I wrote it, it is what it is, and I'm eager to see what happens.

In other news, I want to self-publish another book, to be out this fall sometime, and I have an editor/secretary right under my own roof.

Emily just graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in speech communication and a minor in writing. She is eager to fill her resume with actual experience. I can't recall--was it her idea or mine to turn her loose on my next project--the sixth compilation of newspaper columns?

"Sis mich fa-laet," the Pa. Dutch phrase says, "It's me dismayed(?)," implying not only dread but something deeper, a looming sense of something you must face but just so badly don't want to.

Well, it was me fa-laet to compile that book, all the digging through documents and emails and the Register-Guard website to find the published columns, then clicking and copying to put them all in one document. For me, this always involves careful highlighting and then suddenly the cursor slips like a foot off the clutch, the highlights disappear, and I have to start all over again.

After that comes the organizing into sensible themes, then the grim job of writing titles, and finally the unspeakable task of reading my own work, over and over and OVER, to make necessary changes in wordage and edit the stuff that offended too many people and add here and cut there and make sure it's all properly punctuationed and spelled.

So I hired Emily. I felt sorry for her, but she seemed eager, and she is an adult after all.

In less than an hour, people, specifically FORTY-SIX MINUTES, she had waded through all the old emails, documents, and web pages and put them all into one Word document.

The next week, she came to me with a good idea of what order to put the chapters in, and how I can make it flow more like a chronological book than a random collection of essays. Also, she said, she noted the places where I had briefly told stories and she thought they should be fleshed out in greater detail, "Because your gift is telling stories."

She didn't have a bouffant hairstyle, cat-eye glasses, and a pencil skirt like a 1950's secretary, but she had the same capable and efficient aura.

I feel like not only am I relaxing on my suitcase on the moving walkway, but I've died and gone to writer heaven.

I have only one tiny little complaint about Emily's work: she came up with the working title for this book: In the Grass the Snakes are Slithering.

Her work is such a relief to me, though, that I am not making a fuss about her title, and that is saying a lot.

I'm sure she'll come up with a descriptive "real" title when it's time to get it printed.
Quote of the Day:
This is for all the folks who are sure that my family gazes at me in awe every morning because I'm a real Author.
Me: It's Steven's turn for the dedication.
Jenny: You have to keep going! I don't want to be the only kid with no book dedication!
Ben: Is it that important?
Jenny: How would you feel if you were the only kid without a book dedication?!
Ben: I would only know if I actually read them.
Really, they are all the most supportive family ever. Supportive, and also honest. But not at all wowed, which is as it ought to be.


  1. I love the moving walkway analogy. I'm seeing it come true in my own writing life.

    Love that they are reprinting your earlier books. And I'll be looking forward to your newest book, though I'm not sure I could read a book with a snake on the cover so please tell your editor to keep working on the title.

    1. Thanks, Gina. I'm not surprised that you find yourself moving "with the walkway." You've put out a steady stream of quality writing for quite some time now.

  2. My thoughts are the same........I abhor snakes !

  3. My thoughts are the same........I abhor snakes !

  4. I don't really care what the title is, or what is on the cover. If the author is Dorcas Smucker, I'm reading it!

  5. Oh! Now I've finally seen that Dutch word actually spelled out! I always thought it was "ferlate." "It's me ferlate" to do something. It's practically the only Dutch word I know, and there is no good substitute for it in English. So it was nice to actually see it spelled.

    Congratulations on your good author fortunes, the results of the hard work of many years. You deserve every bit. I love your description of poverty versus wealth, so very fitting.

    1. And that was supposed to read Lucinda J, by the way. Spellcheck is so annoying sometimes. :)

    2. That spelling is my best guess!
      And thank you for your kind words.

  6. Reading your own work may be awful for you, but I recently purchased and read your three books and found them to be totally charming and delightful. Each essay a mixture of humor and poignancy that helped me know I'm not alone in my role of wife and mother. I'm so happy to hear that their will be more! Keep up the good work.

  7. I just came across your first book at the B&B where we stayed over the weekend. I read the whole book and really enjoyed it! So even though it was "old news" it was still good. I have been reading your blog for about 3 years so was delighted to see the book.

  8. This has encouraged me to keep going. As a brand new blogger I wonder some days why I started. And then other days the words in my head just won't stop and then I think "Oh yeah, that's why I started blogging." :) Right now my 18 month old daughter is obsessed with paper and pencils. Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to have her as an editor. :)