Literary Stretch Marks

The Little Washer of Sorrows

You calculate your ovulation dates, you take your temperature, you have sex like a rhesus monkey, and one day, you drink just the right amount of Fireball, the stars line up, you raise your hips on a pillow and one of those million little sperm with enough protein and chutzpah reaches an egg, charms its way in, and finally…you’re pregnant.

With a cherished publishing contract!

The doctor says it’s a book of short stories.
Just what you’ve always wanted.
You are already thinking of names. Of cover images. Of readings in bookstores and library events. Of tea with Margaret Atwood. Play-dates with Neil Gaimon.

But Ma’am, there’s something slightly wrong with your baby.
What? How could that be? Let me see the ultrasound again!
I’m sorry, it’s already been sent to an editor.
Was that really necessary?
This is your first work of literary fiction, is that correct?
Er, yes.
We thought so. Yes. It is necessary. I won’t hurt a bit. Our editor is very good at what he does.

So you work with an editor. And the publisher was right: it doesn’t hurt. Well, it stings a little when the editor slices what you considered one of your best lines, corrects your careless punctuation, points out your over-use of “however”. But your editor is kind and assures you that the changes are minimal and the baby will still look like you.

Then there’s choosing a cover design. Putting the stories in just the right order. Final proofing. Gathering blurbs from other authors. Crafting birth announcements. It’s very exciting, but you find yourself overly sensitive to other people’s reviews. A so-so review in the Globe and Mail of a book you liked will set you off for days.

Your husband says he likes the changes that are happening. You see them as dark circles under your eyes and a more furrowed brow. No, he says. You’re literally glowing! You say you’re probably just absorbing too much light from the computer screen, and burst into tears.

Now, I’ve almost reached my due date (March 15th release) on what has been approximately a four-year gestation. I’m excited, scared, nervous. And bloated. I’m making arrangements for the launch (it’s going to be a near-home-birth) and our first road trip together (I’ll be taking the kid through southern BC and Alberta mid-April), and feeling rather hormonal.

At these final stages of development, I still have the opportunity to make minor tweaks to this unborn child before I set it free/let it loose/put it on amazon.com. But I wonder: is my baby really ready to hit the bookshelves on its own? To leave the realm of my imagination and be set on someone else’s nightstand? Am I okay with someone laying their own bookmark along my baby’s spine? I think I am…

My own children are now eleven and fifteen. I’ve been trying to tweak, edit and proof them for years, but they are…self-published. I know they will travel far, make people laugh, raise difficult questions and penetrate the hearts of those whose paths they cross.

I hope The Little Washer of Sorrows can do the same.

’Til the water breaks,

kfawcettsig