I never imagined writing a book would be easy. I’ve written enough to know the agony (and utility) of multiple drafts. I’ve practiced shutting out the world so I could snatch words from my head and stick them to the page.
But it’s work! Every sentence. Every page.
The first draft delivered to Chin Music Press in September 2014 was, in hindsight, just a clearing of my throat. A food writer friend said as much after reading it. While she enjoyed my writing, she felt I only told half of the story and danced around the central character of each essay: me.
The challenge became not just writing about myself, but writing about myself honestly. Who was I really at 21? 37? 13? I wanted my essays to reflect who I was at those ages, not who I was when writing them.
My second and expanded draft landed in the publisher’s inbox in February 2015. By this point, Chin Music had assigned me an editor, Allie Draper, and her careful comments on the first draft had pushed me to be more descriptive and specific.
More revisions followed, and I turned a third draft around in November 2015.
By this time, the book was beginning to gel: 21 essays, ranging from my childhood to the current year. The manuscript had them unfold chronologically. We also lifted a title from one of the essays from China: “Meet Me at the Bamboo Table.” Things were slowly falling into place.
After submitting a fourth draft in January 2016, I met with Bruce and Allie to discuss the current state of the manuscript. We were fixed on a September 2016 publication date. Working backwards, we would need the cover design early 2016 and a final final final draft to Chin Music by early summer. These deadlines were almost a year away from the meeting and already weighing heavy on my mind.
It seemed like forever and also a blink. I was now well aware how long drafts and revisions took. Each draft was pendulum between personal narrative and the food experience. One more course correction was in order.
I produced a fifth draft in April 2016. We were so close. A few essays still needed tweaks, but I could sense an end in sight.
Soon, it arrived. I turned in my last draft May 2016. I was done! For now.
The next step? The files were shared with Dan, the graphic designer, who would start the process of laying out the book page by page.
I caught my breath and waited eagerly for the galley.