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Monday, July 25, 2011

Hit Send

So is there anything more terrifying than hitting send at one in the morning, pulling the trigger on the proof edits you've procrastinated on for a week? Attaching that file for the front matter, hoping you didn't forget to thank someone? Praying someone can format the table of contents because you have never been able to do that?

And then forcing yourself to read each story closely. Reading my own work is a game with magnets. Sometimes my prose and my eye are in love, clikclik. But more often, the prose pushes my eye away, skittering, and I have to force myself to read. Only three times did I read a passage that made me cringe. I fixed what I could.

My editor, Karen DeVinney, is very good. Thorough, but not too heavy-handed. Taught me the meaning of the word noisome. I was thinking about other good editors for the stories in the book. Tom Chiarella was by far the most heavy-handed, with "Last Cigarette" but also made the story so much better. It was Jack Heffron, when he was still at Story, who changed my writing forever. He rejected "Man with Gorilla Suit" and said, "I don't think it has an ending yet." I sat down and wrote the last paragraph and it opened up this voice, at once veiled and transparent, free to break with the established rule of the story. I use that voice a lot. That might have been in 1992. It was later taken by The Gettysburg Review. Some of these stories have been waiting to be collected in book form for twenty years. I honestly thought I'd die without seeing that happen.

I was excited to hit send, and terrified. Twenty years is a long time to wait for something to happen. But we never stop hitting send.

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