When I talk with young writers in schools, I often advise them to take time between revising drafts of a piece of writing–a day, a week, or even longer if time permits. I call the process “letting things simmer.” I try to practice that principle in my own writing. I find that when I spend some time away from a piece, I can view it with a fresh perspective and see problems I might not have caught if I hadn’t been looking at with “new eyes.”
I’ve taken that principle to new extremes with my latest project, a book of children’s poems about the beach. I first started that project while I was working on my Daddy Poems and Mommy Poems books a decade ago, but my publisher declined the initial manuscript and I concluded I wasn’t ready to complete a book comprised of just my own poems. (My other books were collections that included a few of my poems mixed in with poems from other, more established poets.)
So I let the project sit…and sit…and sit. It sat through two more poetry books. It sat through a dozen nonfiction books and many other projects. It gathered dust in a folder deep in one of my writing boxes. This summer, as I prepared to launch my new freelance career, I pulled out the poems for the first time in years. When I saw the 2001 copyright date I’d placed on them, I realized the project had languished for a full decade.
As I looked over the poems again, I realized that I still really liked them, but they needed a lot of work. So I overhauled the collection, tweaking lines for some poems and completely rewriting (or even discarding) others. I was amazed at how, in many cases, I almost immediately saw ways to improve poems that I had considered finished 10 years ago.
I also decided to take a fresh approach to how I wanted to present the poems. I took an online course in self-publishing over the summer, and I decided to take a crack at going that route with this book. I plan to use CreateSpace, a self-publishing service offered by Amazon.com. The advantage there, of course, is that the book will then get exposure through Amazon.
Most of my poetry books are illustrated with artwork, and I’ve loved the illustrations in each of them. For this book, however, I always envisioned photography, and several years ago at a writer’s group meeting I saw some lovely beach photos by Lisa Goodman (www.lisagoodmanphoto.com). I asked if she would like to collaborate on this project, and we are working together to create what I believe will be a wonderful package. We hope to have the book ready by next spring.
The lesson here is yet another reminder that, like a stew, sometimes a writing project benefits from simmering over time so that the flavors can fully blend and mature. I’ll keep you posted on the project as it moves forward.
Random Thought of the Week: It came home to me recently how parents really do live vicariously through our children. I was never a good athlete growing up. The other week, I got to watch my daughter, Amy, play a collegiate field hockey game for Marywood University. On Tuesday, I watched my son, John, play goalie as Newark High School opened its soccer season with a shutout win over Christiana. What fun!