Pre-Orders and the Journey of a Book in a Year of Yes

cover of slow arrow with description of book

Perhaps it’s the few new minutes of light since Winter Solstice or the still days between the end of Christmas and the hopes of a new year. Or just simply being stuck in bed with a lousy cold. But today seemed like the perfect one to begin the next stage of this long journey I’ve been on, the journey of the book in a year of yes.

I don’t even remember when I first heard about “the year of the yes” or when I first thought to turn monthly environmental columns I’d written into a collection of essays that braided together what I’d learned of this land at 9600 feet with what I’d learned that first year my 85 year-old mother came, here, to be with me.

I do remember describing it, haltingly, at a lunch for a writer being hosted by Regis’s Mile Hi MFA program. “Twelve months . . . twelve essays . . .one year . . .one book,” the writer said. “Perfect.”

But that was years ago. How did I know how much work it would be to find the metaphoric connections between the familial and the environmental that spoke to me, that linked beauty and wonder and the real environmental issues of this 40 acre microcosm I love with the journey of a woman I love, waiting to end this life, who asked me to share these moments with her?

I gave up. Often.

But then I read–again, I curse the fallibility of memory and my poor Internet search techniques–about a writer, and I think she was profiled in Poets and Writers, who did one of those famous years of the “yes.”

“Yes” to everything. Yes to finishing the book. Yes to sending the book out.

The hot spots were there, as I always tell my students. I just had to seek them out in the language: the carbon fossil images of leafs we found at a Florissant Fossil Quarry entwined with the images of my father’s face pressed against the glass in a hospital ward; skyglow and luminescence and the warmth of bodies here and no longer here; gravitational waves and the fears of a husband strapped to a heart monitor.

I remember when Natasha Trethewey, before she became Poet Laureate, visited Ashland University’s MFA program and how she described writing for the buried narrative beyond the historical marker. I realized that even within what seems like sometimes the desolation of these high mountain meadows I wander is the buried narrative of these places that connect history and nature and family: Indian princesses bewailing lost lovers, elk sunk to their bellies in a stoppered creek, stone trees and extinct volcanoes and mother lodes and streets of gold and Keats amid 400 billion stars.

When, finally, I thought I could write no more, that I was done (of course, as I found out in the editing and proofing stage, I wasn’t!), I thought of one more “Yes” to punctuate the “Done”: send it out, right then, to just one place before the long slog of agent searches and editor letters and marketing plans and submission spreadsheets.

I’ll give it a year, I thought.

So, with that “yes” in mind, that metaphorical period penciled in at the end of my manuscript, I looked up what place or two I could find on the Poets & Writers database on Small Presses . And there was Saddle Road Press with its stated editorial focus: “For 2019 we are seeking poetry and hybrid prose/poetry collections and collections of short stories or lyric essays.” Lyric essays? Okay.

And eight days later, this:

Dear Kathryn Winograd, 

We love “Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children” and would like to publish it. Thank you for giving us the opportunity! 

We’ll be contacting you soon about what happens next. In the meantime, congratulations on your wonderful book! 

Ruth Thompson 
Saddle Road Press 

Lesson learned from this journey? Believe. Find what speaks to you. Say, “Yes.”

sheep slippers
From Sick at Home Kathy

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