Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Risks You Take

{{en|Caption: 040302-N-9693M-004 Annapolis, Md...Image via Wikipedia
The first time I saw Back to the Future, when George McFly opened a box filled with copies of his new book, I wondered what that must be like. Now I know. Yesterday morning I was about to take my dog for his morning you-know-what, when I noticed a package. Too large to fit in the mailbox, it was sitting face up on the open lid like hors d'oeuvres on a serving platter. With butterflies in my stomach, I searched the address label for the tell-tale sign this was the one I'd been waiting for.

Sure enough, it read Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers. I rushed back in the house, my dog no doubt wondering why his walk had been cut short, and with gloved hands, fumbled for the scissors. Someone packed it well because it took a few minutes to break through the layers of tape and cardboard. Once I had laid it open, inside were two copies of a cobalt blue, hard bound book with my name on the cover, along with those of my very good friends.

At first I was reticent to pick one up, fearful of getting fingerprints on it (I'd removed my gloves by this time). Then I couldn't resist touching it, turning it over to read the back cover, and carefully stroking the porous surface of the first few pages. I was surprised that it didn't have a paper dust jacket like novels in a bookstore. Instead, the cover was slick, glossy, and reflected light readily, like those you see on textbooks. Books that teach, guide, instruct, and make you want to keep them for reference long after final exams have come and gone.

While George McFly seemed accustomed to all of this, I'm a novice. I've tried to imagine what my reaction would be and joked with friends about breaking out the champagne. Now that the moment had arrived, I wasn't sure what I felt, so I took the dog out a second time (to his relief), shoveled the remaining snow from the walk, and tried to let it all sink in.

It's sobering, getting a first book in the mail. I thought about Lynn and all we'd gone through in the course of six years -- the long hours of writing, editing, the rejection letters and the waiting. Writing partnerships can be hard on a friendship but it solidified ours. I thought about what it means to have ideas you believe in, and the risks you take putting them on paper. The risks you take if you don't.
In the film, The Rookie (2002), Dennis Quaid portrays real-life Texas high school chemistry teacher Jim Morris, who has dreamed since childhood of being a big league pitcher. To the surprise of everyone, he is recruited by a minor league team because, rather than his pitching slowing down with age, it's gotten faster and he's gotten better. Eventually he finds himself in the majors and you realize it's only too late to achieve a dream when you stop trying. That image came to mind yesterday. We're in the big leagues, now, I said to my absent friend, and there's no turning back.

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