‘Gone to Ground,’ in my hands

My book proof has finally arrived. When I came home last evening I found it lying on the front porch in an unassuming, brown cardboard shipping wrapper. It looked so small, I almost didn’t know what it was. At first I thought maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses had stopped by again and left some literature for me and the papers had dropped out of my storm door (where they usually wind up).

But no, it was my book proof, which I’ve been waiting for so anxiously. What a relief when I finally read ‘Amazon’ on the return address.

There was some question as to the resolution of a few of my photographs, how clearly they would appear in print. I flipped through the proof to find them all looking pretty good. I was pleased and relieved, not wanting to delay the printing process any longer than necessary. I only have a few weeks until the Bedlam Farm Open House, and the reading I hope to do at Battenkill Books that same weekend. I want to have at lease some print copies to bring to those events.

Fortunately, this morning I spoke with poet Kate Rantilla, who filled me in on Amazon’s printing process and assured me that there was enough time for me to make changes and still have books printed and shipped by my June 24th deadline. Kate has published her own wonderful collection of poetry, and was very helpful in answering so many of my questions.

I was also glad to show the proof to Maria and Jon today, who both were very excited and pleased with how the book turned out. I shared with them the concerns about the resolution of the photographs, plus a few others. We decided a few minor changes would be good (the margins were tight on some of the right-handed pages), and that if I could improve the photographs, it would help make the book as good as it possibly could be.

As I type this, my book is sitting beside me, the skull in the cover photo staring up through its empty eye sockets. It’s thrilling to see it there, to have something tangible at last that is proof of my work.

Unlike other art forms, like painting or fiber arts or sculpture, writing is mostly cerebral. Anyone can do it in the digital age, type, put words on a screen or create a Word document. It’s common in so many ways. When I write my blog or compose a poem, I have made something, written something. But it doesn’t really have a physical form, except in my mind or in that of the person that reads it.

Until now. Having my book in my hands, even just the proof, was a galvanizing experience. It all felt real to me finally, like something coming together, arriving after a long time’s absence. It felt like a creation in and of itself, separate from the works inside, but also unifying them.

And it wasn’t just the contact with my own work that affected me. There is something powerful still in the physical presence of a book, for both a reader and an author. Maybe especially for the author, whose creations are given real life with a printed page. I hope we never lose books completely to Kindles or other e-readers. Although I enjoy mine and find it useful at times, I think the world would be a sadder, more lonely place without books to keep me company.

So, soon I will adding my own contribution to their population. I’m proud and excited to be joining that community, to be able to reach people who may be interested in or inspired by my work. To have a bigger presence in the world, for my work and somehow, as well, for myself.

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