Sunday, May 19, 2013

Making commitments

Committing to a book project is daunting. Usually, projects like Writing on the Bus or A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers take about a year to draft, working with my editor-friends Anne and Gayle. Then, I spend about 3-6 months in the revision process with the editorial staff of a publishing house. These ballpark figures focus on the writing (i.e., note taking, drafting, author revisions, publishing house revision). The hemming and hawing of choosing a project can take from one to five years. Why? Living with a book project is kind of like getting engaged or for 21st century teenagers it's like asking someone if, in Facebook lingo, they should simultaneously post "In a relationship with..." Heck, that's big stuff.

Maine Team 1984... after a stunning loss in the mud. Note:
The only boy smiling is Mark #12--he's now an undertaker. 
Right now, I have two projects on my mind. First, I've wanted to write a book about taking the Maine State Team to England during the 1980s and 1990s. Over those two decades, 500 Maine athletes on 30 Maine Teams played soccer in and around London. And imagine, only 7 kids got arrested, no one died, and only one player went home because of homesickness. Oh, and we always won (!). I have a ton of data connected to these trips; I asked kids to write me about their experiences on the way home on the plane. I wrote follow-up trip letters to the kids' families--these were 8-10 page single spaced accounts of our days. And now I'm connected to quite a few of the guys through Facebook.

I'm afraid of starting this project for several reasons. One is that it's probably going to end up having to be a memoir. Tying together 500 kids, 30 teams, and 13 years of trips probably means the focus will have to be me. I don't like the sound of that. I suspect there's another way beyond memoir to write this book, but I'm not enough of a writer to know what that is and I don't know that I want to go and learn (I hate saying that). Second, I'm thinking this project could take 3-5 years to write. Can I make that kind of commitment of energy? That's a lot of living time--which is to day, I'll spend every day, every vacation, and every weekend writing.

The second project I've known I'll write might be called One Dog's Writer: Living a Writer's Life as a Teacher. I know from my days as a National Writing Project site director that a lot of teachers, especially English/language arts teachers, really want to write. I've done that fairly well, and so have many of my friends, so I thought I'd write an encouraging and helpful book on establishing and maintaining a writing practice.  This project is a one year deal. I know who I'd interview; I have notes; I even have a rough outline. Not that the book would be easy, but I do know that it's doable and I do know that my editor at Peter Lang would be interested.

Thing is, I'd really like to write the soccer book.


  1. Interesting dilemma, Rich. Some writers can do two books at once -- going back and forth. I've not been able to do that, how about you? Feels as if your writer's self is more invested in the soccer book. Memoir doesn't need to be "all about moi." You're the witness, the over-arching eye, and you hold this baby together; but it doesn't have to track yoru every move or experience. Finding that way to be the spine of the story in the structural sense feels like the ticket. Easy to tell that to somebody else... Meanwhile, I have a deadline.

  2. That's right... you have a deadline! Thanks for your words. I'll figure our the book choice some day.