[SWP: Behind the Book] A Literary Sonogram

Expectant women wail, “I just want this baby to be BORN! I want this pregnancy to be over with!”

Authors whinge about the “labor pains of birthing” their books.

It’s an apt analogy, I think.

My book, Meeting in the Margins: An Invitation to Encounter Society's Invisible People, has had a very long gestation period. Longer than that of a giraffe (15 months) or a whale (18 months), longer than that of an elephant (21.3 months). It has had several iterations, many titles, many outlines and tables of contents, and rejections from publishers who wisely recognized the work as not yet ready to be birthed.

Through all these months/years, the work and discomfort and angst have given the book itself time to develop into what it was meant to be all along.

The true voice of the book finally caught my ear about four years ago. Perhaps it had been speaking to me for longer than that, but I was certain I knew better than it did, and was not ready yet to relinquish my self-cleverness, wouldn’t concede that some difficult things DID need to be written and other cherished things DID need to be deleted.

I can remember the day on which I heard the book speak to me, in an internal dialect that I somehow finally understood. I had been challenged by a copyeditor who said to me, “I don’t believe your response to this incident. SHOW me how it’s possible to feel the way you SAY you felt.”

I hated her in the moment. But I was also paying her for her professional perceptions, so I went back to the vignette that I had been certain was “finished, polished, done and dusted.” I sat grudgingly with it, wondering what in hell else I could possibly do to what I had already spent months perfecting.

That’s when I heard the book speak to me, saying, “Go to your belly. Remember there. Listen there. Bring THOSE words to the page.”

And that’s when the embryo of my intended book first quickened within me.

Fast forward through months of listening to the voice of the book, of letting go to the wisdom of its development, of finding a publisher (She Writes Press) and entering into yet another new kind of dialogue. Hold down the fast-forward button to a couple of weeks ago when the publisher and I finally agreed on the title, the subtitle, the cover image and the cover design (a process that in itself took about three months). Then into my inbox came the literary equivalent of a sonogram of my yet-to-be-born book.

Like any proud almost parent author, I’m carrying the image around in my pocket, showing it to everyone I meet, and I wanted to share it with you as well.

Take a look at my beautiful in utero baby!  She’s due to be born in October of 2015.  Trust me, I'll be sending out birth announcements.

[ This blog was first posted on my website, cynthiatrenshaw.com, in April 2015.]

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  • Michelle Cox

    Great post, Cynthia!  Similarly, I nicknamed my first novel (unpublished) "the big baby" because it was so long, so I enjoyed your metaphor.  Good luck with your upcoming due date; I'm looking forward to meeting the newest member of the family!

  • Michelle Cox

    Great post, Cynthia! Similarly, I nicknamed my first novel (still unpublished) the "big baby" because it was too long to publish by industry standards, so I enjoyed your metaphor.  Your book sounds very intriguing.  Can't wait to read it and meet the newest family member!  Good luck!

  • Michelle Cox

    Great post, Cynthia!  Similarly, I nicknamed my first novel (still unpublished) the "big baby" because it was too long for industry standards, so I really enjoyed your metaphor.  Your book sounds intriguing!  Good luck...and I can't wait to meet the newest family member! 


  • It seems that different kinds of books require different kinds of gestation.  And different kinds of writers have different prenatal necessities.  I love hearing about your process.  

  • Calliope Lappas

    Love it!  Good luck to you!  I hope the few remaining months of your 'pregnancy' will be smooth, and I wish you an easy labor! :)

    Just this past weekend, I wrote a letter to the universe asking that it helps me write what needs to be written!  I can't wait for my time to come soon too!

  • Mardith Louisell

    Cynthia, thanks for an intro to your book. It looks like something I'd like to read, but can only tell by the title. Can you say a little bit about what it's about? Thanks so much.