A reader writes: now that the book is done, what happens? And when do we get to read it?
Well, I'm happy to share the steps by which a bill becomes a law, and a manuscript becomes a book.
Step one: cut a hole in the box.
Oh, no, wait, that’s something else.
Step one: my agent reads the book. This takes a week or two.
Step two: my agent Joanna sends me a giant edit memo with hints, suggestions, redactions, corrections, and a whole lot of input. Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about the book, what’s working and what’s not and what’s just in there for my own amusement/catharsis. Once I’ve gotten the memo and figured out my own thoughts, I write a second draft. This takes a month or two.
Step three: I give the manuscript back to Joanna and send it to Greer, my editor in New York. They’ll both read and give me more notes – an edit memo in Greer’s case, line edits in Joanna’s. Once I have both of their notes, I do another draft. This takes another month or two.
Step four: Greer gets the revised manuscript to read a second time. Joanna gets the revised manuscript to read a third time. Usually at this point I’ll hire a freelance editor to read the manuscript with fresh eyes and read with an eye for the details that you can get tripped up on if you’re too close to the material (timeline consistency, for one thing – a big problem of mine). Once everyone has weighed in, I’ll do another draft, which takes another month or so.
Then the book goes back to Greer, who will read it again and pass it along to the copy editors at Atria. Maybe around now we’ll start to see possible covers. At some point we’ll get to start writing (or at least fiddling with) the flap copy, and choosing quotes for the back cover. At some point I will also have a publication date, and you’ll know when I know.
In other news, one of my Mom’s friends has weighed in and taken lengthy and sincere umbrage to the blog post about Mexico.
She believes that by using the term “special ladyfriend” to describe my Mom’s partner, I am trivializing lesbian love, demeaning the struggles since Stonewall, and generally acting like a heterosexist jerk. (She also somehow interpreted the scene of my Mom and Clair in the swimming pool as a fat joke, when it was actually a joke about how straight guys will gawk at any girl-on-girl action, even when one of the girls is his mother-in-law).
I think it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyhow: I meant no disrespect with the term “special ladyfriend.” I figured it was clear that I was talking about a romantic partner in a committed, loving, mutually supportive relationship, and that the term was in keeping with the light-hearted tone of the post.
But, because I’m dutiful like that, I called my Mom and Clair to check in.
“No, I wasn’t offended by special ladyfriend, but I did notice it,” my Mom said.
“It’s better than what your sister calls me,” said Clair. “You know….That Woman.”
So what am I supposed to call you guys?
“Partners!” they chorused.
“But you’re not married.”
“Jenny,” my Mom said patiently. “We can’t get married.”
True. But my Mom and her wife/partner/whatever live in a state that recognizes same-sex civil unions. They haven’t had one. They haven’t even had a party to celebrate their ladylove.
When I pointed this out, my Mom got cagey.
“After the divorce, I don’t want the state involved in my relationships.”
Fair enough. But if you have the right to get hitched, officially, in the eyes of God or at least the state legislature, and you don’t exercise that right, can you legitimately expect people to call you partners? Isn't it my Mom's willingness to slide by on her fellow same-sex couples' coattails what really demeans the struggle? Your witness!
“Clair and I consider ourselves married. We own property together,” said my Mom.
I pointed out that there are things I have purchased with friends and siblings. This does not make me their spouse.
“We throw parties together!” said my mother, clearly getting desperate.
I pointed out that I have thrown dinners with my girlfriends, which does not make me their wife.
“Let me understand this," I said. "You were married to Dad?”
“And did you also consider yourself married to [previous girlfriend]?”
There was a pause. “Yes.”
“So this is your third marriage? Oh my God! You’re practically Elizabeth Taylor!”
“Jennifer, I hardly think….”
“You’re Elizabeth Gaylor!”
Basically the argument boiled down to my mother saying that she and Clair are married because she and Clair say they are, and me insisting that I can say I’m Miss Universe if I want to, but it doesn’t mean I get to go around in a sash and a tiara and have coke-snorting sex in bar bathrooms until Donald Trump ships me to rehab.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think that if you want to claim the title ‘married,’ you have to do something that involves the government, a religious official, and/or your kids and a caterer. I think you need to make some kind of public, solemn profession of your love and your commitment to a life together. (And by ‘you’ I mean ‘my mother,’ because ‘you’ as in ‘you out there’ can do whatever you want).
I further believe if my mother is going to say that she’s gay-married, I should at least get a damn canapé. Or a commemorative whale figurine. I may be old-fashioned, but I am not picky.
Anyhow, I told my Mom to tell her friend that I would be very democratic and let my readers decide. So now it’s up to you. Do I call Clair my Mom’s….
E. Ball and Chain
F. Old Lady
G. Special Ladyfriend
Send answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Vote early, vote often. Winner gets a whale figurine.
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