Thursday, March 22, 2012


I determined, a few weeks ago, that during spring break I would set aside two days/nights to work on my manuscripts. This determination survived my return from Philadelphia, which found me whiny and panicked about the work I had to do, and also fairly certain that I did not want to spend any more nights apart from the historian.

But as I looked around me at my house, and thought about how fun it would be to just putter around,  sorting through stuff, making toast, telling myself each morning how I would 'write' and 'grade,' I realized that if, indeed, I did want to work on those manuscripts, I would probably get more serious work done if I left. If I, in fact, retreated.

So I did. I took a room at a local motel and holed up in here like a poetry-writing motel-rat. Here's how it's gone:

  1. I am considering yet again another title change for my first manuscript. The title, which I have had for the longest, longest time, Hymn, has a religious connotation that I (a) mean, but (b) fear is shaping all my unknown readers' responses in the most simple-minded possible ways. Am I underestimating my readers? The reason this manuscript has not been published is the title, right? That's the only possible explanation. The last time I changed the title of this manuscript, I re-named it something so entirely abstruse that it got me absolutely no traction (again, assuming that it was the title that made the difference). Anyway, right now I am hovering on a title that I like, but am not sure about and I am certainly not going to jinx it by naming it on this blog, except to say that it can signify 'a wavering, unsteady flame' and 'a North American woodpecker.' If you can (a) guess this title, I would (b) be interested in hearing if you think it's any good, especially if you happen to be a person who has read this manuscript on one or another of its iterations.
  2. I rearranged the poems in this manuscript, creating new sequences and new threads of logic thereby.
  3. I awoke at 4:30 a.m. with the absolute certainty that that new arrangement was terrible.
  4. I could not sleep.
  5. I got up at 5:30 and restored the old arrangement, mostly, with several much subtler changes.  Phew.
  6. About 7:45 a.m., I thought, wow, I am tired because I woke up at 4:30 a.m. all anxious about my manuscript and my terrible revision. Maybe I will close my eyes for a few minutes.
  7. At noon, I awoke. Talk about your retreats.
  8. Breakfast at noon. The shame.
  9. I spent the afternoon going through that manuscript like a monkey grooms its mate.
  10. It is good. Except I'm not sure about the title.
  11. Manuscript 2: I have taken out weak poems, substituted more muscular, fresh poems. So far the title stays. I also know that I have plenty more revision and refining to do for this manuscript.
In the morning I will probably go print them both and take another look. Then I will go home and 'grade.'


  1. Jealous. You are awesome. Etc.

  2. You know, I do prefer the new title. With the previous title, this shallow reader was apparently hearing echoes of "O Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in his head, even though it was clear your poems had very little to do with hoping that we would only sing the first verse so I could hurry home to pot roast. I didn't even realize it had affected me in that way until you brought it up in this post. But I can see other literalist readers thinking, "Hmm. A writer from Utah. 'Hymn'. Mormon. We know where THIS is going." As you have said, that little ineffable trigger that makes an editor say, "yes, this one," and "no, not that one" is just so effing ineffable.
    Anywho. Glad you were able to retreat. My advice? Keep retreating from the *&%@! grading for a few more days.
    BTW, as I was trying to solve The Mystery of the Hightouch Title, the word "gutters" occurred to me. Also not a bad title, though not for your manuscript.

  3. Ditto Dr. Write. Also, I am very proud of myself for figuring out your title. I should be on a game show, right?



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