The Book

I can’t believe I’ve been writing flash fiction pieces every day, but I still haven’t really written an actual blog post. It feels weird to not be paying attention to the word count right now.

The purpose of this post is an explanation. I have mentioned writing and research for a book in many of my flash fiction stories, as they have somehow informed my story for the day, but I haven’t explained much more about it. I feel particularly compelled to write this post since we printed off the first draft of the manuscript today.

It is over 35,000 words and 110 pages. It is printed on crisp, white A4 pieces of paper in Times New Roman (not my favourite font, but you can’t win em all). It is held together by a gold binder clip I got at my first Edmonton writing workshop. It is heavy. And I have not read one word.

This is for two reasons. Firstly, this manuscript is in its most raw form at this moment. It has a working title, which isn’t mentioned. It has chapter names that might be changed. It’s missing a prologue (which I should be writing right now) and an epilogue (which my partner hasn’t finished). I have half-assed an edit or two in reading over my chapters on the computer, but it is mostly made up of the first words that came off my fingers. In a very short amount of time, it will have cover art and sketches from two amazing Edmonton artists we have commissioned (Have a look at some of their work here). But right now, it is bare and weak and somehow really beautiful.

And secondly, my partner and I split up the chapters. We have similar writing styles, but are very different in a lot of ways. I have read some of her finished chapters, but not all, and I have certainly not read them put together with mine. I feel like we’ve worked so well together, that our thoughts and ideas were in sync. I just hope it translates that way now that it’s all together.

So, from the beginning.

Five weeks ago I was hired to write a book. Because of miscommunication and some misunderstanding, I was under the impression that it was going to be a children’s book, which I thought was pretty cool. All I really knew was that it was going to be about my boss’s adopted son, Zach. I found out through an awkward phone conversation with Zach that this was not going to be a book for children. I was then put into contact with Elisia, my partner on this project, and she gave me more information. This book was going to be about Zach’s life. Zach has been through abuse, addiction, illness, and abandonment (to name but a few things), and was expected to end up either on the streets or dead by the time he was an adult. He didn’t. He was adopted by my boss and his wife, two people who have had their own very full experiences dealing with disability and illness, and given a second chance.

For the past five weeks, Elisia and I have been working out of the Millwoods Library putting this book together. We have driven to parts of the city I have never been to before in order to meet Zach and conduct our interviews. It has been a really interesting experience, to put it mildly. As much as I’ve wanted to talk more openly (via social media) about the whole thing, and the interviews with Zach in particular, I couldn’t really bring myself to do it. First off, I’m honestly not really sure what I should or shouldn’t say about it before the book is published (if it gets published). And secondly, I didn’t want to violate the relationship we were developing with Zach by revealing things via outlets we didn’t agree on. It is, in the end, his story to tell. I think my experiences writing the story have to take a back seat.

I know what I’m doing is a really exciting thing. This is a nonfiction work (my fucking jam) dealing with subject matter very close to my heart, and I get to work with someone who just perfectly happened to be an old friend from University. Someone I took my very first writing class with, someone who’s work I have always admired.

But I think I’m suspending excitement right now, at least for the next couple weeks until things are finalized. Zach has to be okay with what we’ve written. And he’s been through some shit, but he’s definitely not a hero. And our boss has to be okay with the way we’ve decided to tell this story. I don’t think it’s the particular style he had in mind, to be honest. But it’s the one this story needed, and I hope he sees that. So there are some factors still on the line here, but whether or not it gets published is, I guess, not the biggest accomplishment for me here. It sounds cliche to say the experience alone was worth it, but it just was.

I’ve learned what it is really, truly like to write for work. To sit in front of the computer for 40 hours a week and turn out pages even if you think they’re garbage, because you just need to turn out something. To work with a deadline. To have to scrap something you think is awesome because it doesn’t work with anything else. To get really sick of writing.

But, I’ve learned what it is really, truly like to write for work. To get really excited about a chapter you’ve ended perfectly. To get a revelation about a connection you didn’t see before. To get that feeling when you’ve found the perfect chapter name (such as Pepperoni and Cocaine – so simply, a chapter about pizza and drugs).

I’m really grateful I had someone else working on this to get excited and disappointed with. I can see how this whole thing can be pretty lonely work, when you have to feel these ups and downs alone.

So, I started this blog as a way to get me to write everyday, and then I got a job writing everyday. If I’m not as prepared as I could possibly be for UBC having done all this, I don’t know what else I’ll need.

Anyways, I suppose I should get back to it. I have markings to make on some perfect pieces of paper.

– J.S

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