The Author Who Went AWOL

Dear writers and proofreaders who happen to read this:

I’ve got a strange story to tell, and wouldn’t mind some advice. Apologies in advance if this comes across a bit rant-y – I’ll try to keep it to a minimum and stick to the essentials.

So. In March 2011 (some of you might have read this), a woman I knew from university – and with whom I keep sporadic contact – contacted me out of the blue, asking if I could proofread her thesis. Which I did.

A few weeks later (in April), when we met in person (she wanted to thank me), she asked if I would help her out by proofreading a manuscript for her first novel.  She was going to self-publish, and was looking into particulars like cover art and even an ISDN number.

To me, she seemed excited. Heck, I was a little excited for her.

As someone with my own interest in literary fiction, I thought it might be a good exercise to try. So, I took a week to decide and told her I’d do it.

We discussed details such as a payment rate (which she asked me about), and what precisely she needed me to do (read for grammatical and structural mistakes, not for tone or character profile).

I didn’t actually receive the manuscript until roughly one year later – in late April, 2012. She asked me to wait for her to re-read and revise it until she felt she had a decent-enough version ready for proofreading.

Due to my own busy schedule, I didn’t start my part of it until late May, and completed proofreading at the end of July.

In all honesty … her book wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I absolutely commend her for writing this while working and going to school.

After letting her know I was done, we exchanged a few e-mails about meeting to discuss her work, before I went away on vacation in September. The meeting never happened, as our schedules just didn’t seem to align.

When I returned from vacation, I sent a message to her (in early October 2012) to see if she wanted to meet. She had family obligations and three papers to write for school, so she suggested after Thanksgiving. Post-holiday, she reached out to me, and this time, it was I who had prior engagements I couldn’t re-schedule.

I contacted her a couple of days later. She was working on another paper, and proposed perhaps meeting the following week.

I didn’t hear from her for six weeks.

I didn’t press the matter, as I figured she had schoolwork to complete. So I e-mailed in November with my phone number. I believe I also tried phoning her a couple of times.

Then I sent her another message in February 2013, with my schedule, to give her options for meeting up.

Then again in April.

And once more – with feeling – at the beginning of August.

Three days later, she responded.

She said she was moving soon (she promised to send her new address) and that her e-mail address had been infected with a virus. She added she did use Facebook to keep in touch for certain people, and finally apologized if I had been trying to reach her.

So I wrote her back and included both my snail-mail and e-mail addresses.

That has been the last time I’ve heard from her. No address has emerged. No new e-mail address has surfaced.

I sent her one Facebook message apiece in October and November.

This past Wednesday, I was checking Facebook and noticed she was online. (She’d commented on a friend’s Facebook status.) So I simply sent her a couple lines, wishing her well, to see if she would write back.

She hasn’t.

Meanwhile, her manuscript – the one I received in April 2012 and completed proofreading in July of that year – is sitting on one of my end tables, collecting dust.

I completely understand that trying to write while navigating life’s responsibilities – work, school, family – isn’t easy. For first-time authors, it can take years to get that labour of love in the hands of a publisher, and into print. I know colleagues and friends who have gone through this, or are going through this right now.

But … and perhaps this is a dumb thought … wouldn’t someone who’s talked of all these plans of being a published author (by whatever means), want his or her work back so he or she can get it published?

I’ve wondered whether it’s about the money and she’s trying to figure out how not to pay me. But judging from her Facebook profile (which, again, could be portraying a false sense of reality), she’s not in the poorhouse. And it’s odd that someone who offered to pay me for this task would then want not to hold up her end of the bargain, or negotiate if she somehow found the rate too high.

I’ve pondered whether – despite telling me she was prepared for whatever criticism I had for her work – she actually doesn’t want to hear what I have to say.

It could very well be that she’s very busy. But I don’t buy that, either. If she’s the type of highly effective human being who can write book manuscripts (she’s got more than one, apparently) while working, going to school and being present for social events – even travelling! Again, Facebook has shown me this – surely she can reach me if she wants.

Of course, I could reading waaaaay too much into this. But I find it bizarre.

Despite our agreement (which is in writing) this isn’t about the money. Yes, she should honour the agreement. But I work full-time, so I can pay my bills. And I simply saw this as a fun favour. So I’m willing to cut my losses.

I just want this manuscript out of my apartment, and returned to its rightful owner – especially since I’m moving in less than two months.

A while ago, I mentioned this woman’s radio silence to a friend, who suggested that I just stop e-mailing.

Which would be fine. But there remains the unresolved issue of being in possession of a piece of work that doesn’t belong to me.

Part of me thinks about how much time this probably took to do and that I should perhaps wait a bit longer.

But another part of me wants to send her a note with a deadline, and if she doesn’t claim it, dump the manuscript in the recycling bin.

Has this ever happened to you? What did you do about it?

Or, is there another solution I’m not seeing?

D’s Loquacious End-of-Year Reads for 2010

Hey everybody! Hope your Christmas was excellent and that you’re enjoying the remainder of your holidays.

Apologies for the severe lack of posting. It’s been due to a lack of motivation, I’m afraid. I meant to post this back in October (or was it late September?), but, well … you know.

So to rectify this injustice, here are a couple of novels – both recent AND not-so-recent – that I managed to complete in recent months.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

I did not read this in high school. Or university. This is my first time reading this book from cover to cover, without giving up after several pages and returning it to the library.

Yes, I am of sound mind (to thoseof you who can’t figure out why I’m reading this). I’m probably the last person over the age of 30 to touch this book.

So, what have I gleaned?

One: Rich people are vain, selfish, mean, possibly alcoholics, and yes, they CAN kill you.

Two: Jay Gatsby? Arrrgh. I hate him. That is all.

Three: Even after completing this book, I still don’t like it, despite the fact that it’s a “great American classic” or whatever the cliche is.

Perhaps I am too uncouth or not well-read enough to appreciate it. In which case, those of you who love this book, please use your strongest argument to convince me otherwise. ‘Cause I’m not a fan.

The Cry of the Dove, Fadia Faqir

A warning in advance: this book is so sad. But it’s good.

The Cry of the Dove tells the tale of Salma, who in her former life is a shepherdess from a family in a tiny Bedouin village. She ends up pregnant out of wedlock, which violates tribal law and causes upheaval in the village.

 To restore honour, the villagers set out to kill her, but for her own protection, Salma is thrown in prison. She gives birth to her child, who is ripped out of her arms shortly after, and spends many years in prison. She’s later smuggled out and whisked away to England to start a new life.

But even that isn’t easy, as she tries to navigate this new way of life – the culture, the customs, and the racism. Amidst all this, she’s continuously haunted by thoughts of her brother coming to kill her … and by the cries of her lost child. And even though Salma finally starts to get her life on track and truly start to enjoy the freedom she has, she never stops hearing those cries.

While the “time-shifting” narrative is often my favourite, I did find a bit difficult to follow the story in a couple of places. Nonetheless, you could sense the frustration and melancholy in Salma’s story. Despite everything that happens to her, you just want her to succeed, move forward and grow stronger. This book may not be for everyone, but I liked it and it’s one I’d recommend.

And that’s it for me for this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to tackle more – and even better books in 2011. ‘Ta for now!

D’s Loquacious July Reads

Hey y’all …

It’s been a bit busy for me lately, but I’ve been making a point of reading when I can. Here’s the next batch of books I finally got around to:

 

alchemistbook2The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard people say, “I LOVE The Alchemist!” when talking about this book. I finally understand why. And I also LOVE this book.

It’s an eloquently written tale about a Spanish shepherd boy who leaves everything he knows to search for a treasure near the Egyptian pyramids. He also learns valuable life lessons along the way, through the people he meets and the obstacles he faces. 

It’s a philosophical book, about following your dream, and listening to your heart. And it’s a fast read.

It’s taken me months to get around to reading this book. But I think now was the perfect time to read it. I’d definitely recommend it, if you haven’t read it already. 

 

high_fidelity2High Fidelity, Nick Hornby

This one, strangely enough, I came across while at a friend’s cottage last month. I remember when the movie came out – I must’ve had a thing for John Cusack, because I was determined to go see this movie.

I still have yet to sit down and watch it. But it’s on The List (which is a LONG one, by the way). In the meantime, I’m glad I read the book first.

What to say about this book? It’s about relationships. And music. But mostly relationships. It’s also about this central character that does and says ALL these things that give you absolutely NO reason to even respect him, never mind like him.

But still you have to read on, giving him the benefit of the doubt, in the hope he changes or has some sort of redeeming quality in the end. And no, I’ve never read any other Nick Hornby novel, so this probably makes my assessment a naive one, right? But it’s a good read nonetheless.

 

whatbook2What Is The What, Dave Eggers

I just finished this one a couple days ago. There are so many words I could use to assess this book. But I’ll simply start with “wow”.

The novel is based on the true story of Valentino Achak Deng – a Sudanese refugee and one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. The narrative flip-flops between Deng’s current struggles in his adopted homeland five years on, and his horrific memories of the civil war and his flight from the conflict.

I found some of what was described very hard to read at times, but necessary in order to understand. It’s always difficult to comprehend just how cruel human beings can be to one another, over what start out as small things. And it’s definitely an eye-opener to anyone who ever thought Darfur has been the only horror to befall that country.

It also got me interested in knowing a bit more about Deng. As it turns out, he has his own non-profit organization, which goes towards helping the Sudanese people both in the U.S. and in Sudan. Among the projects, the foundation has built a secondary school in Deng’s home town.  

If you want a seriously good read, pick up this book. It’s worth every single one of its 475 pages.

That’s all for now. Happy reading, bookworms!

D’s October Reads

Hey kids!

While I wait for the remaining days of my Hell Month at work to subside, here are my thoughts on a couple of books I managed to read in the last few months. I meant to post this in September but, well, you know …

While away at my friend’s cottage for a long weekend this past summer, I came across I Love You, Beth Cooper sitting all by its lonesome on the coffee table.

Strangely enough, it was the one book (that I can recall in recent memory) that I carried everywhere and didn’t put down until it was finished.

Basic premise: School geek declares his love for the coolest girl in school during his valedictory address on graduation day. The rest of this crazy book, you’ll have to read for yourself.

How can I describe this novel, written by Larry Doyle? Let’s put it this way: take whatever coming-of-age, end-of-high-school-and-graduation movie you’ve seen in your lifetime, and increase the gawky awkwardness and crazy situations by, like, 100. I think I laughed out loud every two minutes the entire time I was reading it.

The book’s made its rounds with my cottage weekend friends, and there’s pretty much a consensus on what we all think. It’s even going to be in movie form, slated for release next year. It’ll be interesting to see how close they stay to the novel.

Tolstoy, it’s not. But if you want a light, fast-moving read, this is your tome. (And omigod, they’ve got a Web site! Pretty wicked.)

Speaking of fast-moving reads, I also got my hands on another novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, which was recommended to me by another friend later on in the summer.

Like I Love You Beth Cooper, it’s a fast read, and takes place within the same day. But unlike the former, the latter is physically a third of the size and – as the book’s title should imply – the tone is completely different.

The story is narrated by the main character, a bearded Pakistani man named Changez, who tells an American visitor of his love affair with the United States, where he attends school and subsequently lands his first job. The story depicts Changez’s feelings for his temporarily-adopted country as they move from infatuation to disillusionment, against the backdrop of September 11th and the subsequent war on terror.

This may not make sense, but while I thought this book was powerful, I wasn’t completely bowled over. It was probably my mindset when I read it. And the subject matter – especially in a post 9-11 world – still can make one uneasy. But I did relate to some of the main character’s feelings and observations in my own way, as one might relate to something in one’s own life experience – I could almost hear Changez’s voice as I was reading the words. I would definitely encourage you to give this book a read anyway. 

That’s all for now. I might do one of these again next month.