Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Timing is Everything

We joke about timing at our house a lot. My man has a lot going for him. He's handsome. He's smart. He's funny and talented. He does not have a shred of timing. Never has. Probably never will. We plan for his bad timing these days.

In publishing, timing is everything. Landing the right project on the right desk at the right time is the first step. Landing in the bookstores at the right time is a giant next step. Landing in a reader's hands at the right moment is the best step of all.

I was thinking about this the other day in spin class when they played Joan Jett's cover of I Love Rock 'n Roll (don't argue with me, The Arrows recorded it first in 1975). I love that song. It makes me think of those first few years in college, dancing like a crazy woman at parties, being all wild and rock 'n roll-y. There's that line about the boy by the record machine. The one who must a been about seventeen? I was closer to nineteen when the song came out, but it was close enough.

Now, however? Now I have a seventeen-year-old son and suddenly the lyrics to the song stuck in my throat and is wasn't just because we were doing jumps. The song is now ruined for me. Now it's about my kid, not me, and believe you me, if you're eying him by the record machine, you're going to have to go through me first. Okay, fine. I'm not going to be that kind of mother, but you know what I mean!

All of this made me think of books that I read at the perfect moment for their message to reach me. There was Heartbreak Hotel by Gabrielle Burton in my late twenties. The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve right after my husband passed away. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott back when I was a girl. Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood around the time I was getting divorced. Those books spoke to my soul. As a reader, there's nothing sweeter. Every once in a while, I get some mail from a reader who I've touched, whose hands I've landed in at just the right moment, and I'll tell you know, that is the sweetest thing of all.

P.S. Yesterday, actor Patrick Swayze lost his battle against pancreatic cancer. I know I'm a hopeless romantic, but RIP Johnny Castle. Because of you, nobody will ever put Baby in a corner.


Molly O'Keefe said...

Great post - I can already feel the POV switching on so many of my favorite teenage things. I don't know what I'll do if my kids want to be lifeguards because I know the seedy, wrong side of right fun I had!!!

Books at the right time -

The Emily Of New Moon Series when I was just the right age
My Mother's Garden by Alice Walker in College
The Red Tent in the first rocky years of my marriage

I'm with you on Patrick Swayze - Dirty Dancing was a movie that came at just the right time and fueled a lot of teenage fantasies - to say nothing of my career choice.

Eileen said...

The Red Tent! Oh, yes! I read that when I first moved to California and my sister and I were swapping kids and parents back and forth, planting each other's gardens and painting each other's houses. Perfect example.

Maureen McGowan said...

Interesting... Probably read Anne of Green Gables at the right time, because we moved around a lot when I was little and it was good to see Anne cope with being the new kid in Avonlea.

As a young adult... Fifth Business and the other books in Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy which helped to solidify my thoughts about organized religion and about human nature and Jungian analysis and being Canadian, and a lot of other things.

And then The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Helped me form views about ethics and morality. Moved me off the fence on the "big issue" in that book to the side I haven't swayed from since.

Songs... I think both Janis Ian's "I Learned the Truth at Seventeen" and "How Soon is Now", (okay, almost every song by The Smiths), all came at the wrong time for me. Made me feel sorry for myself at a time I didn't have much to feel sorry for, in hindsight.

Sad to hear about Swayze, too. :-(

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm going to go w/ Jane Eyre. My mother made me read it at 13 and it nearly turned me off books forever.

I put it on a reading list... because it's a classic - when I was teaching and thought I really should read it if I'm going to promote it. I was 23.

Changed everything about the way I thought about what I needed and wanted in my life. And that there was a certain dignity and heroism in choosing to go it on alone.

Of course this has led me to be 38 and unmarried. My mother wishes I paid more attention to Pride and Prejudice and business of securing a husband ;)

Eileen said...

I don't remember my mother ever giving me something to read. We share books now, but it's more of a "I think you'll enjoy this" kind of thing rather than "I think you should know this" thing.

My kids are not big readers. It pains me, but it's true.

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