I’m sitting at my most-conquered Starbucks table, premium writing real estate because of its rare size and proximity to a wall plug. I’d scored the location five minutes ahead of a grumbling business type forced to huddle around a cramped rounder and dine on my second plug scraps of electricity. Behind me stands a stack of exorbitantly priced coffee pots (does anyone actually buy a $500 pot from Starbucks??) that teeters on occasion when I scramble away to recapture the time writing has snatched. Across the aisle, a woman in pea-green Crocs taps her foot to an i-pod tune while studying a textbook.
I feel guilt, so I justify the space by spreading out manuscript pages. I do this at home in deep edits so the highlighted colors tell a story. Totally unnecessary here, but to stave off the nasty glares from grumpy executive man. And there, something new creeps into my awareness.
This manuscript is two years old. I unearthed it that morning from my closet to enter it into a prestigious contest. The final version my agent had on file, one sent to two dozen publishing houses, had sprinklings of a mysterious maroon-colored penmanship on several pages. The handwriting, not of anyone in my critique group nor writing friends I sometimes send pages to, was quiet. Small and unassuming, but dead-accurate. The comments were like tiny gifts packaged into calligraphic bows.
In the cacophony of bean grinders and frothing machines and chirping cell phones, I waded through the mental rolodex of readers who’d had this manuscript in hand. The dinosaur method of handwriting should have provided hard evidence; most critiques I get now come via fattened emails loaded with track changes. Someone physically held these pages, and I can’t find him or her to thank.
The comments stop around page thirty-six. Does that firmly relegate the time period to the novel’s inception? Did the reader grow weary of the mistakes? Was that all I had to offer at the time? To whom did I entrust my raw words at the time that I no longer recognize the script?
I may never know, but it scarcely matters.
Those red marks are someone and everyone who’ll one day dive into our pages looking for an escape, a truth. Every fastidious cursive letter represents a bond, not with print runs or book clubs, but one anonymous reader who, through our stories, will become more intimate with us than almost anyone else. A thought both frightening and comforting.
We don’t write for many, we write for one. A full circle of writer to reader, complete.And if anyone out there makes their “g”s like figure eights and crosses their “t”s only when inspired, don’t tell me. I love anonymous gifts.
Who do you write for?