A few years ago, I overheard two colleagues get into a bragging contest about who was busier. The object of the contest was to determine who had the better excuse for not serving on some hideous, horrid university committee.
"I can't possibly do it," the first one said. "I have to finish writing my book."
"Well, I have to finish writing TWO books," said the other.
This memory popped into my head this morning when I realized that right now I have to finish writing five books. Admittedly the work on some of them is extremely minor. Still, five books makes quite a long list for the purposes of academic excuse-mongering.
Here are the five books, all in different stages of completion:
1. I have to read the second-pass page proofs on my novel Zero Tolerance, due out next June. The FSG editing team and I already read the first-pass proofs, but I still found so many tiny things we had missed. How I hate words repeated in close proximity! "His eyes on fell on her." "Her eyes lit up." Grotesque!
2. I have the edited manuscript of Annika Riz, Math Whiz to review and revise from editorial comments. This is the second editorially prompted revision on the manuscript, so this time around I mainly need to sort out a bunch of logistics for cookie baking, lemonade-stand sign making, and Sudoku puzzle timing.
3. I need to revise the rough draft of Izzy Barr, Running Star, which I completed last month. This one needs a LOT of work, and I have until February to do it, but I'd like at least to have the first two chapters in decent shape to share with my Boulder writing group this weekend (there is no point in wasting their time critiquing things I can easily fix myself).
4. If I'm going to have a book in the pipeline after Zero Tolerance, Annika Riz, and Izzy Barr, I need to start writing one now. I think I've hit upon an idea I love, and I've started to work my way through the handwritten first draft. I had a breakthrough re the plot when I was in Oregon, so now I'm wild to curl up to write, write, write.
5. The fifth book is not a book I'm writing, but editing - a collection of papers on ethics and children's literature, drawn from the conference I hosted in September, with a few other papers added, including one by me, which remains to be written, and an introduction by me, which also is not currently in existence but will need to be in existence sometime in the next few months, to send off to the publisher who is expecting it next summer. And along the way there will be nagging of contributors, reading of their manuscripts, offering of helpful editorial comments, more nagging for the subsequent revisions, and more.
So: five books. If anyone asks me to be on a hideous, horrible university committee, I have my excuse at the ready. But I'm never happier than when I have a book to write. And I'm five times happier having five.