Everyone remembers their first time. Where they were. The time of day. The anticipation…. I remember my first time. Where I was: at home. Who was home: no one, I had the house to myself. How I had waited! Holding it, loving it, and finally, just content to have it in my arms.
It was some time before I even considered opening the envelope.
I am talking about the first time I received a manuscript to read. Deliveries such as this usually come Fed Ex. Chances are you requested it, or the writer asked you to be an early reader. Either way, it’s flattering. To be that trusted and to know that your opinion is valued. To be afforded a look before all the world can see it.
The first friend who sent me a manuscript—it was also her first novel—had to know what a thrill it was. As an aspiring writer myself, I studied her words and the way she put them together. I studied how the manuscript was printed and bound, the illustration she had found for the cover, and the care with which she had selected her title. I read passages over and over, and made notes on the double-spaced, single-sided pages, as she requested. I felt I was part of a book launch. And I was deeply jealous.…
She is the one who spurred me on in writing. I was between coasts and between arts at the time, and she prescribed Julia Cameron’s “The Artists Way,” a course I have been practicing now for fourteen years and counting. Writing grounded me. I found I loved it more than anything. Whatever else I may do, I know now that I will write my way through.
Then I lost her. Her life went into flux. A name change, a move…. and now I am trying to find her. She needs to know that I still believe in her novel and am always keeping an eye out for it. More than anything, I hope to hear that she is writing. And I want to thank her for changing the course of my life.
The most recent manuscript to land on my lap came electronically, of course, but I printed it up nevertheless. This baby weighed in at a healthy 9 lbs. I say “baby” because a book may be the closest thing to having a baby that a man can have. This one is a memoir. A memoir that moved me to places no one would ever want to go, places we didn’t know existed. And took me inside what it must be to be a nine, thirteen, and fourteen year old boy, a dear boy at that. I wanted to rescue him at every turn.
In the end, at 3 am, I sat there stunned, in my house so quiet, his manuscript upon my lap. Finding it incredulous that my friend had lived through it once, and then again in the writing. A writer lives twice.