• Betsy Teutsch
  • [SWP: Behind the Book] A Book, A Baby, A Beer Bottle House
[SWP: Behind the Book] A Book, A Baby, A Beer Bottle House
Contributor
Written by
Betsy Teutsch
September 2014
Contributor
Written by
Betsy Teutsch
September 2014

My goal was a daunting, flashing light: delivering a manuscript in six months. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus one’s attention.  I was off, writing every available moment. My laptop became an extension of my body; I went to bed turning phrases over in my head, pondering transitions, and weighing inclusions and exclusions.  When I awoke in the morning, the program had often finished running, and provided the next steps. As I plowed ahead, I continually bargained with my book: “I’ve written fifteen entries, but I have ten from the earlier prototype, so I’ve really done twenty-five! I am a quarter of the way there!”  No time allowed for writer’s block or questioning my ability—or right—to be writing this book.

I perceived most everything during the six-month writing period through a progress v. deadline lens. About two months into it, my son and daughter-in-law shared the exciting news of their pregnancy; this, our first grandchild, expected in November. I admit that my first reaction was . . . relief. The book would be written by then, allowing me to focus on this happy event.

People compare the writing of books with gestation, but while they both take a long time and hopefully yield something wonderful, pregnancy and book-writing are really not comparable. The fetus grows itself. Pregnancy is tiring and outcomes are best when moms-to-be eat well and take good care of themselves, but the baby will arrive regardless. Not so with a book. Each day the writer faces a blank screen and summons the courage to create. Writers know what is in their forthcoming books; expectant parents have no clue who is coming.

One of the hundred tools in my book is bottle bricks, an ingenious building material. Sculptor Tito Ingenieri (his last name means “engineering”; perhaps he is self-named?) lives in Quilmes, Argentina, outside Buenos Aires. He has painstakingly constructed a house over 17 years, collecting and utilizing millions of beer bottles, fashioning them into the walls of his sprawling structure. Writing a book is a similar project, though of blessedly shorter duration. Writers make constant choices, collecting and refining raw material, editing, rewriting, and finding better ways of using language to tell their stories. Gradually the manuscript is built.

At the end of a pregnancy, by divine grace, there is a baby. But upon the completion of a manuscript, there is not yet a book. If books were houses, the post-submission phase is a constant juggling act of scheduling subcontractors: carpet layers, window treatment people, painters and the like, spiffing everything up. While simultaneously bringing in the real estate folks to weigh in with marketing strategies, meta-data analysis, and encouraging the hiring of stagers. When my first-born son lay asleep, I more than once scooped him up just to hold him and marvel at his existence, and I’m sure my children will do the same with their own. No holding your book, though; it is a PDF being sent all over creation via Dropbox on a quest to snag the perfect blurb.

Tito Ingenieri’s home has become an informal museum. So is one’s book. Once published, the author’s work, her labor of great love, is no longer hers alone. It belongs to the world. I can’t wait! 

 

100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women, SWP Spring 2015.

Photo: Anabel Wagner Photography - A detail of Tito Ingenieri's house, Quilmes, Argentina, Flickr

P.S. And about the deliciously anticipated grandchild . . . stay tuned.

 

 

 

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