A Very Long Engagement by Marivi Blanco
Volunteering at friends’ book parties is something I’ve always enjoyed for the vicarious thrill of seeing an author read from his or her newly published book. Nevertheless after helping out at a few of them, I began to feel rather wistful. Was it forever going to be always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride for me? When would it be my turn?
The answer lay in the 11-page contract I received from Penguin last Monday. Sandy, the editor charged with shepherding my words into a trade paperback, had set November 1 as my deadline for first round of revisions. The second round of revisions would be due by March 1. If I missed either of these deadlines the engagement would be off, contract withdrawn. Looking at these daunting stipulations, I began to feel like a matron inquiring about plastic surgery: It’s really that bad? Getting pretty is going to take that much work?!
As Sandy explained, once the manuscript makeover had been completed, an entire sales team would read it, a “launch meeting” convened, back cover blurbs collected, buzz generated and so on, until finally the book would be released in time for Asian Pacific Heritage Month, which by an act of Congress, is celebrated in May. My book would finally be launched in May, 2013.
I tried to take a philosophical attitude about the seemingly interminable wait. On the one hand, 18 months is only four months shy of an elephant’s gestation period. By Dumbo standards, I’d be birthing a preemie. On the other hand, if one subscribes to the Mayan Calendar, the world will have ended in December 2012, five months before In the Service of Secrets hit the bookstores. Who would read — let alone tweet about — my book then?
I consoled myself with the thought that for the next year and a half, certain people in the publishing business would refer to me as a “debut author.” Call me superficial, but as I approach woman of a certain age territory, the idea of reprising “debutante” is beyond delicious. Even better, the notion of a New York sales team conjured up Don Draper and his dapper gang of Mad Men sitting around a teak conference table, sipping scotch as they devoured my virgin prose. That fantasy alone would make any debutante’s heart go all a-flutter.
My editor promised to send her list of revisions sometime soon. Meanwhile, like a proper fiancée I wait…and shop. Since book tours are rarely bankrolled by their publishers these days, I recently relented on an decade-long ban on credit cards and applied for one that earns miles with each dollar spent. It may not be as glamorous as shopping for a wedding trousseau, but every time I buy soymilk, I’ll be a few points closer to that long-anticipated book tour.
After authoring ten books for children, Marivi Soliven Blanco moved on to writing four more books for an adult audience including Suddenly Stateside, a collection of essays on the Filipino diaspora, and Spooky Mo, a collection of feminist horror stories. Her essays and short fiction have been widely anthologized in Philippine textbooks. While her day job as a telephonic interpreter offers constant inspiration for new stories, writing continues to be her primary vocation.