Page Proofs – our final writing task before…Posted March 29th, 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
This is a weird moment in the life of Gather at the Table. I’ve spent the past week meticulously scouring the page proofs of our manuscript. My wife Lindi reviewed it as well. This is our final task in the actual writing process – checking for any last errors or making minor fixes before the book is finalized for printing. After this, no more changes. No more improvements. No more, “I wish I would have said that just a little differently” alterations. Once Sharon performs the same task and sends the manuscript back to Beacon Press, we’re done. This is it. It’s no longer ours. Come October 9, it will belong to our readers. They will determine how well we’ve told the story of our journey.
And it’s a weird moment. Up until now the story has been ours to mold, struggle with, hold tight, nurture, and grow into something we hope will make a positive difference in the lives of our readers, and ultimately, in the world.
It’s not unlike raising children. For awhile, we parents do our best to mold, struggle with, hold tight, nurture, and grow our children into people we hope will do well in the world, and will make a positive difference. And at some point we’re pretty much done. They no longer belong to us.
My granddaughters Ali and James walked downtown with me yesterday to mail our package to our friend Sharon. On our way downtown and back – we walk downtown a lot – they like to climb on top of brick or rock walls that run parallel to, and a few feet above, the sidewalks along our course. There is one particular rock wall, not far from the library, that is rough, craggy, easy to catch a toe and slip on; a challenge for a little girl to navigate. Ali, the older at 5 years of age, hops up and moves quickly along. James, 3 years old, hasn’t been as sure-footed or self-confident just yet on this particular parapet. But this afternoon, she pushed my hand away. “It’s okay, Papa,” she said. “I can do it.”
I would prefer to hold her hand; to keep her safe. I wasn’t quite ready to let go. But she was ready. She walked all the way down the street on that precipitous surface until she came to the corner and hopped down with a big smile of satisfaction on her face.
Though there are elements in Gather at the Table that I am sure both Sharon and I will think we could have molded, nurtured, or written just a little bit better, we won’t be able to. We’ve done our best and this book is now pushing our hands away.
There are a couple more weird things about this moment in the life of our book. First, it has gone from the virtual world into the physical. Up until this point we’ve produced our manuscript on our laptops. Writing and editing has all been done on our computers with updates flying back and forth among us and our editor via email. Proofreading is the first time that we’re required to make changes on actual paper pages. The manuscript has been set in the type and style as it will appear in book form in October. The pages are numbered. We make note of final changes in colored pencil in the margins. It feels so old fashioned, somehow, and yet, so real. As tedious as it may sound to go line by line – word by word – through a manuscript, I love this part of the process. It’s our last opportunity to try to ensure that this book can handle the rugged terrain it is about to step out onto.
The other thing is that Sharon and I have almost always been together for significant moments like this throughout our journey. We sat together at the same large table at Richmond Great House in Tobago in January 2011 as we wrote the first three chapters. We sat together at her dining room table for many long days last October to review the completed manuscript. We performed a first public reading of excerpts for our friends at the Coming to the Table National Gathering two weeks ago today. But we couldn’t make it work to be together for proofreading. It’s not that big a deal, I suppose. It’s just weird, that’s all.
Within the next few days, Sharon will receive the package we mailed and she’ll go to work. She’ll no doubt finish ahead of our deadline. We’ve prided ourselves on never being late at any point in this entire process with our publisher. Once she finishes proofreading, our focus will shift completely from the art of writing to the business of publicity and marketing so as to get our book into the hands of as many readers as possible.
Gather at the Table will be ready, just like James was ready to strike out on her own on that precarious rock wall.
Eastern Mennonite University
Harlem Book Fair
Phillis Wheatley Book Award
Post Racial Society
Summer Peacebuilding Institute
Tulsa race riot
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