That’s the FedEx guy that I gave our manuscript to on Saturday afternoon. I asked if I could take his picture and he said, “Sorry. Bad hair day,” pointing to his cap. I replied, “There’s a year and a half of my husband’s and my life in that envelope. Your hair looks fine.”
If you’ve never written a book, it’s hard to explain how complex the emotions are when you turn it in. Especially with a new publisher. Especially in a bad economy. Although we’re relieved, there’s a certain amount of fear that goes along with finishing. We’re committed. Although we can change a few small things, this is it. Bill and I talk endlessly about how it’s going to look and if all of the work that we put into it will show. We obsessed over the structure of the book and the content for a year and a half. Bill tirelessly produced diagram after diagram, wanting to make sure that readers would know how to align seams flawlessly and that the explanation of various binding techniques was clear.
I spent eight months hand-quilting one of the quilts in the book. It was in one of four boxes we shipped to the publisher the day before Thanksgiving. When the email from our editor came that the boxes hadn’t arrived, we tried to remain calm. The safest way to send quilts, should you ever need to, is via Registered Mail by the US Postal Service. There are special packaging requirements for shipping this way. There’s a special tape you have to seal it with and every seam is stamped at the post office so any tampering with the package with be evident. Every single person who touches a Registered package has to scan it and sign a register. Jewelers send jewelry via Registered Mail and while it’s slower than other services, it’s safer. Our letter carrier told us that there are severe disciplinary actions for workers who are careless with packages sent Registered Mail. It’s serious business.
We switched to Registered Mail a few years ago after UPS delivered some boxes of quilts headed for the American Folk Art Museum in New York to the wrong address and was unwilling to retrieve them. The UPS agent said it was too much trouble to go look for them, even though they had the exact address of where they had been incorrectly delivered. “It’s easier for us just to get you the insurance check,” they said. If you’re a quiltmaker you know that in some cases no check would be big enough to cover the value of 10 quilts that are going to be published in a book.
So for 16 tense days we continued to work of the manuscript and waited to see what had happened to our quilts. The postmaster was alarmed, regional superintendents were notified and all we could do was keeping writing and illustrating. Our publisher could see that we shipped them on time but we all knew that this could be a huge loss for them as well as for us. Later three arrived and the fourth was missing. Days later the fourth box was found in a storage room in O’Hare airport. The postmaster was horrified and told us that he had uncovered serious breaches related to our boxes. Employees were being disciplined, we were told. We were grateful that they tracked them down and refunded all of our costs, but it was an exhausting episode.
We’re so aware that there are a lot of books out there and that many quilters have had to cut back on their expenditures because of the economy. So it was hard to stop working on the book. There’s always this feeling that we should re-work that paragraph on working with large-scale prints just one more time or add one more diagram on different ways of quilting a quilt.
Books also have a way of measuring the passage of time for the authors. During the writing of this book we started this blog, began to overhaul our website (still in progress), had some illnesses to deal with, completed numerous other commissions, had two quilts published in American Patchwork & Quilting, had our first products (dinner napkins) produced by Crate & Barrel, mourned the death of a friend, celebrated the engagement of another friend, submitted Bill’s application for tenure at the university where he teaches and watched our daughter grow into being able to wear my shoes. I think part of the reason that it’s so hard to stop working on the book is that we’re different people at the end of the book than we were at the beginning.
But there comes a point when the deadline has arrived. So we burned the disc, put our fabric samples in the envelope and handed it to the FedEx guy.
A few hours later we were discussing the proposal for the next book.