Miranda didn’t understand what I meant by this title when I wrote it to her in an e-mail. I’ll admit it’s an uncharacteristically cryptic statement to come out of my logical Virgo brain, and Miranda’s similar Virgo brain rightly had a problem with it.
The thing is, I was innocently sitting (sitting innocently? DAMM! Miranda the editor is going to be reading this in all likelihood. My brain turns to MUSH around her!) in my office, and a textbook rep came in to discuss my courses (=pimp out his books). He asked me if I might be interested in writing a natural disasters & catastrophes texbook for them (= it’s a huge course and could make him lots of money, but they don’t currently carry such a book). I dismissed him with a “maybe.” Before I knew it, there was an exective editor from a publishing company in my office asking for a proposal. Someone who is not me possessed my body, and I submitted an ambitious and fascinating (to me) proposal. The next thing I know, the Company is waving a contract at me. It’s sitting on my desk waiting for me to sign it and mail it in.
Then I got cold feet. No WAY! I talked to some colleagues. An unfathomable amount of work. Little in return. Doesn’t count towards scholarship in my department. No thanks. But there it still is. In my mind and on my desk. I ran through a mental list of pros and cons.
Pros: money. a textbook I would LIKE for my most popular and most populated class. something to do with the vast expanse of free time stretching out before me on a daily basis (I’m a single mom of a 2-year-old, sole homeowner and keeper (badly) of a house and yard, owner of two aging dogs, college professor, administrator, director of an environmental studies program, avid runner and competitor in races, I could go on, but you get what kind of free time we’re talking about here), and some measure of notoriety amongst those who don’t know better.
Cons: huge amount of time, huge pain in the rear tracking down copyright permission for every photo, figure, and table out there, huge amounts of time.
I looked at the contract. 10% of the sales would be my royalty. Paid once a year. Anything at ALL I need paid for comes out of the royalties. If I blow my nose, $0.02 for a tissue. If I have a guest writer, that’s on me, etc. etc.. If I get sued for plagiaraism (I’ll admit, this *would* be a great timesaver to just copy and paste large tracts of my would-be competitors books. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!) they don’t stand behind me legally. Oh, and no advance. I was thinking I could take the summer off and write, if I got an advance, so I could, ummm… pay my mortgage and eat? No such luxury to be had.
Why bother. Then my soon-to-be ex husband got mobilized and is spending a year in parts unknown to fight this great and noble war. That sealed the deal. He usually takes our daughter two days a week, and I could have earmarked those days for writing and editing.
I asked Miranda’s opinion, and before she even could answer, I decided definitely NO. “NO,” I said. I am definitely not writing this book, so forget all the questions I asked you, don’t even bother wasting your time answering them, because the answer is no.
And then Miranda sent me the link for this blog, and I loved it. And I am jealous of those who are fortunate enough to be doing something worth posting on this blog. To think… writing about writing. I’m a scientist, and by training, we remove ourselves from the picture, or we’re laughed out of the inner sanctum. But what if I could actually be a PERSON and write this book? What if I WANT to write this book. Not even for the end result, simply for the process of writing. What if, as bad as I am at it, I LIKE to write. I WANT to write. Darn it, I’m GOING to write.
So I got up at 4:30 AM on Wed and wrote the first chapter. It’s a rough rough rough draft. there are no figures or tables, and there is a LOT of data and nuts-and-bolts that need to be inserted, but it’s THERE. *I* wrote it. Chapter 1. I guess that’s my commitment, despite not having signed the contract. I’m waiting to hear from some collegaues (and friends) on what they think of this contract. And then I wrote an e-mail to Miranda telling her I finished the first draft of the book I’m not writing. I respect Miranda more than anyone else I can think of for the writing she does, the work she does, and for the way she lives her life. I want to be just like her when I grow up. She’s writing a book, I want to write one, too. Not to be competitive, just to emulate her.
I guess I’m writing a book. So, here’s the plan:
I teach the class Natural Disasters and Catastrophes this semester. It meets twice a week, for a total of 18 classes. I will have 18 or 19 chapters. I have a TA to do the grunt work (there are 300 students), and a FABULOUS, FANTASTIC student doing a directed study with me. She’s going to sit in the class with a laptop and type everything I say. Then she’ll e-mail it to me that afternoon. I will take that rough^4 draft and turn it into just a rough rough rough draft. Then after I do that, I’ll pass it to her to fill in things like the universal gravitational constant. The density of the moon (in class I lazily call it “kind of dense.”). Stuff like that. AND I have another work study student who is a freshman. I have him the syllabus/table of contents and told him to start looking for SPECTACULAR photos of each of these disasters, track down who took the photos, and beg for copyright permission. And the publishing company has an art department, so I need only draw the figures I need on the back of a MacDonalds bag and they will turn my figures into four color final figures.
I’ve been teaching this course for nearly eight years, so I can offer the publisher test banks, study guides, and powerpoint slides. Teachers DIG supplementary materials! Can I do this after all?
SO my plan is to get up at 4:30 twice a week and write 2 rough chapters a week, and using my work study and directed study students to get as MUCH done as they possibly can. I’ll use weekends to draw figures, for the two chapters I wrote, and Spring Break to edit once the material goes a little cold.
I daresay I’m excited.
And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Miranda for starting and for introducing me to this blog. It’s as she said, you make the intent public, you’d BETTER follow through. Here’s to following though. Here’s to weekly postings by all of us saying that we’re all on schedule.