Remember when I said I would never complain about The Best Job Ever? Well, there was one small moment in time when I came close to being unhappy with the project. I'll share it here, as it qualifies as one of the experiences we had on the path to publication, but I promise it will be the one and only time I will even remotely say something negative about The Best Job Ever.
Due to a miscalculation on both my part and an executive at the publishing company (who, by the way, is no longer there), I received a phone call that went something like this:
Ex-exec: We have a slight problem.
Me: Uh-oh. What?
Ex-exec: We need more words to fill the book.
Me: How many more? (I'm thinking 200, 300 tops.)
Me: (dead air)
Ex-exec: Hello? Are you there?
Me: I'm sorry, I think someone just cut in and said 40,000. Ha, ha, wouldn't that have been hilarious if you really had said 40,000?!
Ex-exec: That was me, and that is what I said.
Me: (dead air, as I'm trying to calculate the following: If I can type 80 words a minute, and there are 60 minutes in an hour...)
Ex-exec: And I hate to tell you this, but we need them in a week.
Me: (uncontrolled hyperventilating)
My mind started reeling at this point. I wasn't sure I even knew 40,000 words, let alone how to put them in some kind of comprehensive order. Plus, we still had several photo shoots left to do by the end of the same week. At that moment, I was seriously worried that my brain might truly explode, Hollywood-style, and ooze out on my floor.
I'm not sure how I pulled it off, but I somehow calmly convinced the exec that we could do this--no problem. I think I even thanked him for the opportunity that allowed us to tackle such a great challenge. I hung up, and then crumpled to the ground in a quivering, gelatinous mass of fear and panic.
After taking a few minutes to coagulate, I called my co-workers with the horrific news. In a state of shock, we got to work writing more stories, expanding the existing stories, creating more muffin recipes, and oiling down the last of the men (the latter I had to do faster than I wanted to, darn it.) From that moment on, except for time it took for the photo shoots, my hands did not leave the keyboard for nearly seven days straight. I have never known such fatigue, and I hope to never experience it again. Honestly, I couldn't feel my fingertips. And my back kept going into convulsions so many times that I tried to type standing up, which is not ergonomically correct at all.
Two interesting things did happen, though. First, there were parts of a couple of stories I wrote that I honestly, truthfully, and sincerely do not remember writing. About two or three in the morning, I would go into a fuzzy haze, and I believe a kind writer from the Great Beyond became my muse, taking over the typing. Somehow, the stories came and came. I would catch a few minutes of sleep here and there, then proof what I (or someone) had just created. I kid you not, it was like I was reading it for the first time. As I read, I had no idea what was coming next. And as much as I hate to admit it, these sleep-written stories were pretty good. I was equally grateful and freaked out about the whole thing.
The second thing had to do with my eyes. I have reached that age where I need glasses to see the computer screen, the newspaper, or anything else around me that should be in focus, like oncoming traffic. But after the week of staring at the computer, my distance vision suddenly became crystal clear. I remember being in the car and crying, "I can SEEEEEE!" when I could make out the Quizno's sign at fifty yards. I was thrilled, but sadly, it was only temporary. Within two days, I went back to my blurry world.
I talked to my eye doctor about my brief miracle, and he actually had a name for it: a compensatory spasm. Since I used my eyes to focus so long and so hard, the muscles overcompensated and basically got stuck in the correct position. Once the spasm ceased, they returned to their old-eye position. Sigh. (And just for the record, I prefer "miracle" to "spasm". It sounds better, and doesn't remind me of my junior high nickname.)
Somehow, some way, we were able to complete our assignment, and we delivered 40,000 words on time to the publishing company. Oh, were we happy and proud. Just goes to show what you can do when you give a 150% to your dream. And a half-inch of the ends of your fingers.
About a week later, I receive the first set of galleys in an e-mail from the publisher for proofing. I was so excited. Not only was this the first chance to see how the book was going to look, but it would be the first time we could read all the new stories alongside the old ones. With great anticipation, I clicked on the file and started reading. Hmmm, the first story didn't seem to have much of the additional writing we had submitted. Hmmm, the second story had some, but not all. Hmmm, the third story looked untouched. I started clicking through frantically, and calculated in my head that only about 10-20% of the 40,000 words were there.
Quickly, I called the publishing company. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: I don't seem to see all of the additional writing.
Ex-exec: (chuckling) Funny story! Know how the recipes and pictures take up a lot of space?
Me: (not chuckling) Yes.
Ex-exec: (still chuckling) Turns out I kinda, sorta didn't calculate for that, so we really didn't need all those words. But thanks, anyway.
Me: (dead air)
Muse: (soft weeping)
HORN-TOOTING - Here's a nice review of my book Lessons From Lucy, which will be published October 23.
21 hours ago