Acknowledging

I just sent the copyedited manuscript of CURRENCY to Gina, my editor. The next time I see the novel, it will be in galleys, manuscript no more.

It’s been twelve years since I workshopped the experiment in voice that became the first chapter of the novel. I was 28 years old then, and I smoked cigarettes blithely in the apartment where Mark and I had just moved in together. Up to that point, I’d written only a handful or two of short stories, each page wrung out of me slowly, and writing a novel seemed an impossible thing. But Piv’s voice was a wind at my back, and the few years it took me to complete the first “finished” version were great ones; they’ll probably go down as some of the best in my life. The story unfolded inexorably in my mind, and I had the time and attention to give to writing. Then came kids, mortgages, money worries and increasingly demanding day-jobs; rejections and not-quite-rejections and agents who sent me back through the pages. I revised in the cracks of time I could find. And received more rejections. And then, after I’d abandoned all hope, eventual acceptance. (Thanks, OV Books!) And now here I am, writing acknowledgments.

Writing acknowledgments is making me nervous. I fear I’m not always gracious in thanking people, being myself sometimes off-put by gratitude that seems too gushingly produced to be sincere but also knowing, first-hand and through observation, how much a heartfelt thanks or the lack of one can mean. I’m feeling twin urges to be brutally honest and very thorough. To make sure I don’t leave out any key players, I’ve tried narrating to myself the story of my writing this novel, and what I’ve found is that the most important people and turning points happened before the characters even materialized for me, long ago as that was. There’s one person in particular I’ve realized I need to thank—Tuk, a Thai man—whose last name I don’t remember. It’s been driving me crazy. I know I had it somewhere! So the other night I unearthed the plastic bin in the basement where I’ve been storing all the books I used to research the novel and the journals I kept when I was backpacking.

journals

I meant to be efficient, because like many people at my stage of life, I always have more things to do than hours to them in, and I was already stealing time. But as soon as I opened the box, the smell of old smoke discombobulated me. The burnt musk has been synonymous with my memories of youth ever since 1995, when a bad apartment fire singed all my possessions it didn’t destroy. Like a genie going back into a bottle—whoosh—I was back in the past, and nevermind the sleep that I really needed to get that night. When I came upstairs hours later, my fingertips were black with soot from paging through the journals. It became almost beside that point that I found names and addresses of people I had completely forgotten, but not Tuk’s.

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8 Comments on “Acknowledging

  1. Don’t they say that smell is the most immediate of the senses, the most evocative of moments believed utterly lost? (They… who? You know. “They.”) This is just lovely — and I’m so excited to read the final, final, revised, copyedited, acknowleded, bound, and printed edition. A great accomplishment, and one hard won. Yay!

    • I believe it. Especially, nowadays, when scent is practically the one thing left–well, besides touch, I guess–that can’t be replicated ad infinitum on the internets.

  2. Back on that day when you sat blithely smoking the cigarette, I’ll bet you never pictured yourself now, writing acknowledgments while baby is napping, digging up old smoky journals, blogging about it.

    Life takes some great turns. Congratulations.

    • Thank you, Angela. What I never could have predicted is that smoking indoors would become an almost unimaginable act in little more than a decade!

  3. Zoe,

    Every paragraph you write is beautiful. I am beside myself with excitement that there will soon be a whole novel by you that I can hold in my hands and eagerly devour–in between diaper changes and feedings!

    Congratulations!

  4. I’m excited about your book, too, Zoe! You remind me that I still have copies of two short stories you sent me in oh, 1992? Not sure I ever told you how much they stuck with me. So glad you kept at it.

  5. Yours are pretty much the most awesome acknowledgments I’ve read–they tell such a story, the story of this book. We’re so excited to have them as part of the whole package of CURRENCY!

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