Just before we’re leaving for spring break, I hear back from my editor that her response to my edits will be complete two days after we arrive in South Beach. And would I be available for a phone chat? This is nobody’s fault; just the way things keep turning out for me. I sort of keep believing the myth that writers have control over their work hours. But even though I sent her my responses to her edits two weeks earlier thinking that was plenty of time for us to work out a few minor details, that was me thinking I’m the only writer and mine is the only book my editor has to deal with. Additionally, she tells me that the art department told her they would have a book cover for approval, which will need to be approved vacation week since the catalog is going out that week.
So I pack my laptop and we head to South Beach which is hot and sunny and full of people watching distractions. The first two mornings, running on the boardwalk with my daughter we pass: a bare-chested older overweight man speed walking in a pirate’s hat and doing Jennifer Aniston arms (that’s when you do little arm circles with your arms pointing out at 90 degrees from your body and we call it Jennifer Aniston arms because we read in a glossy magazine that it was the exercise she did to keep her arms trim); a body building woman in a hot pants and stilettos, smoking a cigarette; a Hasidic family with eight kids, the parents both talking on their cell phones; a dyed blond, botoxed and bloated lipped woman with gravity defying balloon-boobs carrying one of those little Hamster-type dogs (also in stilettos); as well as scores of Latinos and Europeans punctuated by aging hippies in frizzy gray dos.
The afternoons on the beach I toss a football with my son, do yoga with my husband and daughter (and a few of the cabana boys who ask to join) and then plop into a lounging chair and watch the seagulls and the man in the pink thong sunbathe.
The third morning I wake up and wave everyone off to the beach without me, wondering how they will adjust to me having to work on vacation, rolling my eyes as if I’m really put out that I have to stay in the room to have this phone meeting with my editor. Secretly? People needing to speak with me? Even on vacation? This is exactly the kind of affirmation I’ve been waiting for all these years. This means that other people are taking me as seriously as I want to be taken. (You might say I’m a little slow on this whole publishing thing being real. But, honestly, sometimes I believe it and sometimes that belief completely fades away).
But here in South beach, I sit facing the ocean with my computer open to my edited manuscript, the phone to my right, a glass of mineral water to my left (in case my throat gets dry) and wait for my editor to call. And for two hours I discuss tiny details of passages I have labored over and my editor has read so carefully that it matters to her whether we need an “and” instead of a “comma.” The nerd in me thrilled to be analyzing how the “and” subtly changes the emphasis in the sentence.
The next day I bring my laptop to the pool area. That way I figure I don’t have to keep running up to the room to see if my editor sent me the book cover. Although once it starts raining, I realize that plan isn’t going to work and it gives me an excuse to check the e-mail in the room without distraction. And there it is… an e-mail with my cover! I’m so excited and ready to approve it and get back to my family and the guy in the pink thong.
Except that the cover is AWFUL. Hideous. I don’t even want to waste your time explaining how bad it was except to say that the colors were like an Easter Egg. Quickly and nervously, I e-mail my agent. He e-mails back. Agrees it’s hideous. We both e-mail my editor and say, No!
In between waiting for e-mails from my editor and agent, I go down to the pool and the beach (the sky is clear now) worrying about the Easter Egg cover (but also thinking, I’m in South Beach and other people are so invested in my work, in words I never imagined two years ago when I wrote them in my journal would ever be shared, that I have to go back and check to see if there are more covers for me to approve, that I may have to engage in even MORE discussion about why one does or doesn’t work… does it get any better than this??). So while my son splashes in the pool with some boys he befriended and my daughter listens to her iPod and reads The Stranger in French and works on her tan and my husband reads Skinny Bitch (at my urging) and sips cools drinks in the sun, I run back and forth between the pool and the room and the beach.
Finally, 4 more covers come through. All of them MUCH better than the first one and one of them really good. Not perfect but more than good enough for the catalog. I’m so excited and relieved.
By the time I’m done and get back down to the pool, it’s late afternoon. I find my husband sitting with the Other Mothers who are all complaining about their husbands on their BlackBerries.
I nod empathetically, remembering all the vacations when my husband was distracted with work and I was at the pool alone with the kids.
Then I hear my husband say, “My wife’s been in the room on the phone with her editor and agent for two days.”
And I realize this vacation I am he and he is me.
“Really?” the Other Mothers all say. “That’s interesting. Are you a writer?”
I glance over at my husband and wonder if he resents being left at the pool while I work.
“Yes,” he answers for me. “She’s written a great book!”
“What did I miss?” I ask, a tad anxiously.
“The topless Venezuelans,” one of the Other Mothers says.
My husband nods and grins. “But I finished Skinny Bitch,” he says.
“And the guy doing Jennifer Aniston arms was wearing a cowboy hat today,” my daughter walks up and scootches in next to me on the lounging chair to say.
“Are you done, Mom?” my son pops up from underwater and yells from the pool. “Will you throw the ball with me?”
“Yes,” I say. “I’m done.”
And it dawns on me that the power may be reshifting in my marriage (a bit) and I think I might be the one who will need to do the most adjusting.
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