Last week, I met with my publisher to look through the "galleys" of The Beauty of Different -- the galleys are the final form of a book before it goes to the printer to be printed and bound. It shows the final layout of all the words and images. And I have to tell you, after a year of having written and edited and re-edited the book, it's a very exciting milestone to reach.
Earlier in the process, when I was doing final edits to the book, I was talking to a friend of mine, Jenny, who was in the process of writing her own book, a memoir, for submittal to her agent in preparation to shop for a publisher (an aside: she ended up getting the best book deal of anyone I know, both in real life and by rumour. Jenny is nothing short of a superstar). At the time, Jenny was struggling with some language, so she asked if I would come over so she could read what she'd written to me, because it helps her to hear it out loud, and feel the reaction of the audience. Since Jenny is wildly hysterically funny, I happily agreed.
The next day, I drove to Jenny's house. After her reading session (and I was pulling myself back together from weeping with laughter), our discussion turned to my book. "How's it coming along?" she asked. (Full disclosure: Jenny actually appears in my book, but on this particular day, she had only previously read the text of the few pages in which she appears.)
"Oh, it's coming!" I said. "In fact, my publisher just sent me final edits of the layouts. Would you like to see it?"
I logged onto my email on her computer, and downloaded the colour manuscript. "Oooh," she breathed. "It looks beautiful. Would you mind if I read it? It'll be a good break from working on my book."
"Of course, I'd be honoured," I responded. "And actually, I'd love some honest feedback of what you think. Since it's all new content, with none of it having ever appeared on my site or online, I'd love to hear if it works."
A few days later, Jenny called me.
"I love it."
"I do. To be honest with you, I wasn't planning on reading the whole thing," she admitted. I laughed.
"It's true. I was just going to read a couple of chapters to get a feel for it, and the put it down and get back to my work. But I couldn't put it down. I kept turning the pages, and every page there was a new beautiful image, or something cool to read. A couple of times it got really heavy and heartbreaking and I would think, 'okay, I'm not going to able to read much more than this, because it will make me sad,' and then as soon as I would think that, you (or the person you were featuring) would say something funny or uplifting or awesome. I read the whole thing in one sitting."
"Oh, I'm so glad!"
"Seriously. I wish I had this book when I was a teenager. It would have been good for me to read then. Or hell, it's good for anyone who ever experiences any self-doubt, or is ever unhappy about some aspect of themselves. People need to read the message in this book."
She began talking about the details of the stories of the people featured in the book, but to be honest, I was too excited to hear much of what she was saying. I was thrilled that she thought the experiences that I wrote about, both mine and those of the generous, beautiful people who shared their stories with me, would resonate with readers of the book.
And so last week, as I was looking at the final galleys, I remembered her words. As my publisher and I gave the manuscript a final look-through before sending it to the printers, I breathed silent thanks that we had come this far, and a wish that on October 15th, when the book is finally released to the world, the world sees what Jenny saw in its words and images.