I’m twenty chapters or so into the edited manuscript, making changes and printing out a clean copy as I go. So far, there hasn’t been any mind-bending revision, just various chunks of story that needed clarification or simplification. Probably the biggest challenge is going to be redoing my time lines. I had planned on putting a timeline at the beginning of each chapter, in order to show what was going on all around the world at that particular time, but the timelines were long and detailed and complicated (here’s one):

Star points out that this will add a hundred pages to the book, not to mention that the text would probably have to be set sideways in order for it to fit, and that it annoys readers to be constantly turning the book around as they read. So I’m trying to work out a simpler timeline for the end of each chapter that would fit neatly on the page beneath the last paragraph.

The first half of the book has been reworked more often than the last half, so I’m expecting the revisions to get more complicated as I go on. I’m working on this every spare minute so that I can put it in the overnight mail on Saturday morning. I could beg for more time, but I had arranged some time ago to go to New York early next week to meet with my agent and with the publicity folks at Norton (I’ll report on the trip when I get back), and it would be embarrassing to show up without the revisions done.

It would be easier if I’d managed to clear my week of everything but revision. Unfortunately, I also have a deadline today to finish a book review that I’m already late on, and I have to meet with my dissertation director on Friday morning, so I’ll have to make time to get ready for that. Also the children are throwing up. Hurrah. If they were all old enough to throw up neatly into a receptacle, that would make life easier, but instead we’ve had a fair amount of running for the bathroom and spewing as we go (it would actually be better if they stood still and threw up in one neat puddle, even if the puddle did happen to be on the living room rug). Also, instead of climbing out of his loft bed and throwing up in the bathroom, my nine-year-old leaned over the edge of the loft and threw up into a pile of Legos on the carpet below.


Chaos, in short, is gradually overtaking us. Here’s how my office looks just now, with seven piles of working manuscript (two piles of my copy, the revised and unrevised; two piles of Star’s copy, the chapters I’ve gone through and the ones still to go; the pile of clean, printed-out manuscript; the stack of maps; the stack of illustrations):

And the corner that you CAN’T see from the door, which contains more shelves, more books, and the table where I work on my dissertation, looks like this:

To add insult to injury, there’s a dead mouse in my office wall, which means I’m lighting scented candles to be able to stay in the room at all. (What can I say? We live in a farmhouse. Mice are always going into their good night in some place which can be smelled but not found.) And it’s RAINING. And has been raining. And grey.

The view out my window today.

Showing 14 comments
  • Diane

    Oh, oh, oh….LEGO and VOMIT in the same sentence. This brings back my worst memory in fifteen-and-a-half years of parenting. Think: Mommy pregnant. Husband on “contemplative retreat” (the contemplative part adds insult, I think) and son vomits into a toy chest FILLED with lego. “I knew you wouldn’t want me to ruin the carpet, Mama, so I threw up in the lego bucket.” He meant well (and still does) but it was GRIM. The only way I got it out of the house was having KateCA living in the granny flat. Her husband was my hero, donning a bandana over his nose to get it outside. SO GROSS.

    You’re in my prayers! Scented candles in the hallway might help, too (-:


  • Susan in TX

    I’m imagining you as one of those plate spinners at the state fair, but while you are trying to keep the plates up, the kids are going down. Arrggghhh!!
    Praying in TX for you!

  • Elizabeth in Canada

    Two words…puke bowl. And make them carry it everywhere! Truly, I wish this week was easier for you, but “come what come may/time and the hour run through the roughest day.” (or days…) and it will get better!

  • Janice in NJ

    Good heavens!!!

    I wish I could do something besides type. It seems like such a pathetic way to respond to a situation like this.

    Because I can’t do anything tangible, my prayer will be that you can emotionally rise above the chaos and clutter of your surroundings and find a clear head and the peace that you need to just hang on!

    Sending hugs.

  • Kolbi

    Oh Susan. Oh (((((((((Susan))))))))))). Well, and oh (((((((((Pete))))))))). Yucky yuck yuck. Everything you’re doing will be appreciated by so many. I hope you don’t catch what the children have, and I hope your trips are wonderful and productive.

  • Lynn in WI

    By all means keep your revisions away from the children!

    We’re all rooting for you this week (and praying).

  • LB

    Oh yes! I am all too familiar with the scenario of a 9 yr old leaning over the top bunk to spew. Must be a 9 yr old boy thing.

    I agree with Elizabeth- get a puke bucket. Works well.

    ((Hugs)) to you and I hope you stay healthy through what sounds like a stressful week. Does knowing how many of us are planning on buying your book make it any easier to make the deadlines? 😉

  • Melissa in VA

    Egads woman! Welllll….. being the underachiever that I am, my advice would be :
    1. puke buckets for all
    2. Beg for more time
    3. RUN to NY, (embarrassed maybe(HUGE maybe), but..you know…ALIVE and speaking coherantly)

    O.K., so I’m not the best one to give advise on such topics. But I will be praying for you and the family. I DO understand the stomach flu thing. Our family managed to get it the week before my husband left for the Mid East for 4 months. Ugh.

    I honestly don’t know how you do it. I really don’t. But I do love the end result of your hard labor. Each of the books so far have filled a huge gap for me, and I honestly don’t think that it would have been filled otherwise. So, thanks. I hope that you find strength and encouragement this week.

  • Mindy

    Oh, I love timelines!! I don’t even mind turning the page sideways! 🙂

    Cleaning up puke is that part of motherhood that they never told you about when you sign up for the job. Hang in there. This, too, will pass (so to speak!!)

    I must confess when I buy and read your book I’ll be wondering which pages were “the flu pages.” Thanks for a glimpse into the life behind the book. It will make me appreciate it all the more.

  • Mel Moore

    wow. gee, i, um, sure wish we were down there right now. or not…

    we’re praying for you!

  • FlockOfSillies

    Ah, yes, the rain of vomit. My 6yo dd did that off the top bunk a few months ago. Both beds, the ladder, cracks and crevices, and the carpet. Man, NY is going to seem like a vacation for you!

  • FlockOfSillies

    Everybody sing, “Hurple rain, hurple rain…” LOL.

  • Sherrill

    Errr, so how is the work coming on the new office, anyway? Or should I not ask . . .

    I wish I could come and spend a few days and help you out with organizing books, keeping house, helping with the children, and feeding you chocolate.

    Here’s hoping you are able to finish the revs by tomorrow so you don’t have to LUG the ms to NYC.

    God bless,

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