I have to say that this part of the writing process is more exciting than I ever expected. When the proofs for LINES— came in the mail, I was ecstatic! To finally see my novel coming to fruition? I can't explain the joy. My mom got teary-eyed when she saw the first page, and she immediately turned to my dad to tell him that I dedicated the book to them. He, too, got a little misty, and with everything we've gone through with Dad in the past few months, I was thankful to have this moment, to witness my parents' pride right then and there, not assume it with their existence on the other side.
There were four books to pass out to a handful of readers, and then came the waiting game. My anxiety built with every passing day, dying to hear anything, good or bad, just a word to know how the story was panning out for them. Less than two weeks later, the texts came in, and to sum up the responses: all of the readers enjoyed the story, got attached to the characters (everyone loves Will!), were intrigued by the setting and historical events. However, my proof discussions were not gushing praise for a first-time writer. On the contrary, each reader was open about what confused them:
* "Where's the historical fiction disclaimer?"
* "It took too long to realize that Livia and Catherine were not sisters"
* "I spent the whole first half of the book peeking in on Livia's daily life, and now I feel cheated by not having more details about what happened during the time lapse"
* "I had to look up information about that march because you didn't give enough information to fully understand why the characters were there"
The criticisms were welcomed because each reader had a positive experience but wanted more from the author. That's the kind of stuff I need to make me a better writer, to make the book a better story. I immediately started working on minor edits, but my reality is that I'm back in school with a new job and a ton of grading and lesson planning. I'll return to the major revisions in LINES-- whenever I can, but overall, I'm delighted with the responses, and I couldn't be more grateful to these readers for their enthusiasm, support, and honest critiques. Nell, Theresa, Debbie B., and Russ: you are the best!
Some people have asked if, now that I'm so close to completion, I'll change my mind about self-publishing and go the traditional route, instead. The answer is no. The feeling of accomplishment that has flourished with each step of this process is remarkable. I've developed a truer sense of ownership with LINES— by taking the time to experiment with formatting and selecting a book cover, to go through personal editing and seeking critiques, to learn about social media and finding an audience. It's been a rewarding whirlwind, and the bottom line is this: I'm a teacher. First and foremost, I teach. I see myself as one who plays with words and lines and descriptions, and I think this passion for writing, ultimately, makes me a more effective English teacher. I dabble with poetry and essays and journaling; I challenge myself with new ideas (I just submitted my first piece of flash fiction). If I was a professional writer/author, I'd probably want to find an editor and agent and publisher, but I'm proud to be a teacher who models the joy of writing. If a publisher wants to pick up the book after I've self-published, well, I'll reflect on that, but for now, I'm content with my novel-in-progress, my blog, my chapbook, my handful of online publications, and... my starter-website!