The Catcher

January 7th, 2011

Advance review copies of my book arrived yesterday, two years and two weeks from the day my agent called to tell me we had a book deal. I remember the date, because it was Inauguration Day. I got the news while I was on my way to pick the boys up from school. My feelings were everything, and nothing, like I thought they would be. The thrill and the jubilation was all there, but just behind that was a whole new set of anxieties, fresh as a blank sheet of paper.

The next morning, I stood in front of the writing desk in our bedroom, wondering whether I should get out of my pyjamas to take what would surely be one of the most important phone calls I’d ever get, from Sarah McGrath, the editor at Riverhead who had pre-empted the proposal. I decided that I should. And then missed her call because my ringer was off. After a few minutes of a frantic, three-way game of phone and email tag between her office, my agent’s office, and my bedroom (during which I was certain my career as an author was over), I heard Sarah’s warm, reassuring voice through the handset, saying the things I’d dreamed so long to hear.

When our conversation was over, I went to my calendar, and looked up the date of my freshly-determined manuscript deadline. I counted weeks and months, dividing them into pages and chapters. It was an entirely reasonable timeframe. From a theoretical point of view. But I was used to telling stories in 1,000 words or less. I’d never  in my life written anything longer than 5,000 words. Even with all the time in the world, how was I ever going to string together 70,000 of them? How was that possible?

I pondered the same question as I turned the last page, nearly one a.m. this morning, and held an actual book, written by me, in my hands. How was that possible?

It seems like a miracle, one largely assisted by Sarah.

There was this lovely story on NPR the other night about a pair of trapeze artists in the Cirque de Soleil that captivated me. The one who jumps and tumbles in mid air is called the flyer. The one who catches him is called, sensibly, the catcher. It was the catcher I was most intrigued by, so far as to take some notes. His particular talent (besides having very strong arms) is for instilling trust. “I have to save him all the time,” the catcher said of the flyer. He spoke calmly and matter-of-factly, with a European accent, without a trace of resentment or heroism. Saving him all the time is just his job.

Saving writers all the time is Sarah’s job. By the end, I wrote many more thousands of words than those that made it into the book, and she had to read every one. She saved me many times. As I read the final cut, from beginning to end, it came to me how much she knows about my life. More than almost anyone. The flyer said the exact same thing about the catcher, because they have to practice trust in between acts, just as as they have to practice flips and somersaults. Up there on the platform, the flyer talks. The catcher listens. “I tell him everything,” the flyer said.

And then he leaps out over the impossible. And is saved, all the time.

22 Responses to “The Catcher”

  1. carolyn says:

    Fly, girl!
    You dared to jump; that is the hard part.

  2. marilee pittman says:

    I am so very proud of you…

  3. I am sure that in the course of Sarah’s career she has probably been thanked many times over by writers she ” caught ” along the way, but I bet your eloquent way with words will make yours one she will not soon forget.

    Congratulations on your successful completion of what is sure to be an exciting read. I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Great post. Congratulations!

  5. Lindsey says:

    I cannot WAIT to read it. xox

  6. Patty says:

    I heard that story on NPR, as well, and it stayed with me. Life and death, both literally and figuratively.

    This was a beautiful post. I can’t wait to read your book.

  7. Ramona says:

    me too. out here on the west coast.
    wonderful wonderful

  8. Chris says:

    The book looks beautiful, and I’m certain the time it took to select each of the 70,000 words you strung together will be worth the wait for your readers. Congratulations.

  9. Fawn says:

    Beautiful post, as always. Looking forward to reading your flips, twists, and graceful landings.

  10. Roxanna says:

    Congratulations! I’m so excited for you and for your book.

  11. I simply love this post. For reasons that are beyond my ability to articulate at this late hour. Thank you for writing it…

  12. Mariellen says:

    I am so pleased for you and your forthcoming book, Kyran. I think so much of the creative realisation that takes place in the world is the result of not just a single artist flying solo, but an artist’s team, each person of which plays their part, which just adds to the fun.

  13. Amy Wilson says:

    Congratulations Kyran! What a thrill to see your book for the first time!

  14. It is such a lovely feeling to hold the thing ion your hands, knowing all those loose thoughts were brought together by you. Congratulations, I’ll look forward to reading it

  15. Congratulations, I’ll look forward to reading your new book

  16. Angella says:

    Excited for you! And to read it. 🙂

  17. joan says:

    Congratulations. I love to read your writings, here, and in Good Housekeeping. Now I look forward to your book.

  18. Courage. Girl, you have it. I need it.

  19. misty says:

    i just stumbled upon your blog and i love it. Congrats (2 years later) on your book deal! What an amazing journey! I, for one, can’t wait to read it… In the mean time though, I’m so glad to find you! I feel like I can derive much courage from you as I start the same journey…

  20. […] writing for print. I love the sense of authority and legacy, I love the professionalism, I love working with talented editors who push me to write better. (Also, I love the money. Blogging has occasionally bought me a cup […]

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