This website has undergone a complete redesign for the first time since it launched in 2002, almost two decades ago. Eep! I adore this iteration so much that I’m hoping to blog more often, if only to spend more time looking at it. All thanks to Lorissa Shepstone and Gordon Clemmons, the brilliant Being Wicked team.
Late last week I received my first-pass pages to review for Ancestor Trouble. This stage is a revelation because the book designer has laid out the book more or less the way it will appear in final form (and exactly the way it will appear in the galleys). Here’s part of the title page.
Barbara M. Bachman is the designer for Ancestor Trouble, and the first concept I saw was exactly right and the one we went with, by universal agreement. It captures aspects of the book that I hadn’t known to hope typefaces might convey. That lower-case “t” in the title suggests a cross to me, or maybe the type just generally reminds me of the stuttery old Bible story projector reels I watched at school in my evangelical childhood. “An earthly story with a heavenly meaning,” was the catchphrase. A Twitter friend said the part of the design I’ve shared reminded him of “a 150 year old book with a cracked leather cover and a crooked Cornell Library stamp on the title page that got scanned into Google Books.” The book jacket, which I also love, was designed by Rachel Ake.
Leafing through the pages, I had an intense “holy crap, I really wrote a book” feeling that quickly faded. An old friend recently asked if I’m excited about publication, and I do experience these little elation bursts, but even after all the years of therapy and meditation and so forth*, my habit is to leap to anxiety when something I’ve been working toward is finally happening. I do my best nowadays to treat this low-level fear like the weather, letting it be rather than feeding it or trying to push it away, as I used to do. Hi again, rain. Hi again, clouds. Hi again, jangly nerves—have a seat, if you’d like.
Stepping back from feelings like excitement and anxiety, I’m glad that Ancestor Trouble will be published soon, because it encapsulates so many concerns that preoccupied me for years—essentially my whole life—and it dives into the mess of it all just as I yearned to when I started writing the book, even though I didn’t know exactly how I’d do it. I’m satisfied that I couldn’t have done a better job of what I set out to do, which is a good feeling.
I’m also glad that I pulled back from writing other things as much as I needed to, though I did feel isolated at times, despite the company of my partner, Max, and our two dogs and two cats and innumerable plant friends indoors and out. I feel an intense allegiance to and friendship with the trees in the park nearby. I guess many of us feel this way in the pandemic, so I’m a little less of an outlier than I was over the previous years I worked on the book.
I’m impressed by writers who write good books and consistently publish other things while they work on their larger projects. Maybe that would be more possible for me without a day job, or maybe I’d always need to hibernate to finish a book. My job requires involves words and more words, too, and complex concepts, which may be a factor. In any case, writing productivity in the absence of a day job is a theoretical question for me, not one I can answer.
Apart from the first-pass pages, I’m working a bit on a novel that’s an outgrowth of the one I was working on for years. I’m also mulling another idea that might be part of the novel or might be another nonfiction project or might just be something I continue to mull. It’s fun to feel creatively wide open after seven years of working on Ancestor Trouble. I kept a spirit of play and discovery throughout that process, but I had to remember the subject and what served the book itself. I’m also in the final stages of a project I’m managing at my day job, and it’s the kind of thing that requires extra hours here and there, so I’m glad it will be finished up in the next couple months.
It feels good to be writing here again, outside the flow of social media. If you happen to stop by and see this, thanks for reading.
* For details on the so forth, see my book.