Are You a Fanatical Reviser?
by Beth Kozan
Often as I drive around town, I listen to NPR on my car radio. During a recent episode of “All Things Considered,” I caught an interview with Thomas McGuane, a Montana author, about his new book, a collection of short stories titled Crow Fair. The interviewer, Melissa Block, asked McGuane if he goes back and rereads his most successful book, The Sporting Club, published in 1969. Ms. Block opined, “I’d think you’d like to reread it and remember yourself as the younger man who wrote it.”
“No,” he insists. “I never have. I am really a fanatical reviser. There comes a time when I have to declare a truce with the text. Or I will keep fooling with it forever. … I know not to look.”
The first copyright date I put on my manuscript of Adoption: More Than by Chance, was 2000. I hired an editor who added a subtitle: True Stories of Synchronicity and Faith in the World of Adoption. Over the years, I would take out my book and rework it. I learned to recognize my long-winded sentences and to make my writing more effective with action verbs.
The adoption agency where I worked closed, and in my angst over being unemployed, I joined a Toastmasters club. Six of the first 10 speeches I made were about some aspect of adoption. I’d get feedback from my audience: “I thought it was hard to adopt. You make it sound worthwhile.” More often than not someone would tell me after the meeting: “I’m adopted, and I’ve never heard anything positive about the women who give up babies for adoption.” Or, “My brother’s kids are adopted; I never thought about what the other side was going through.” Or, “You speak positively of foster care and foster parents. I didn’t realize how important they are!”
These last 15 years have been years of change in the world of publishing. Self-publishing, I’d heard, was a death knell: A “real publisher” will never take on a self-published author or a book that’s first published by a vanity press. At a large writers’ conference I heard, You need an agent! It all seemed so formidable.
I kept revising my text. I tossed out stories – good stories – honing them down to only those that contained a synchronicity. I learned more about social media and building a platform. I grew more at ease with my “style.”
The world of adoption also has undergone tremendous changes in those same 15 years. Most infant adoptions today involve matching on the Internet, and the agency’s role is much reduced. Someone needs to write about those changes!
Just today, someone asked me if I’ve reread Adoption: More Than by Chance since it’s been printed. I haven’t. It would only bug me to find out the stories still deserve revision. I had to declare a truce with the text.
And besides, someone’s got to write this book on changes in adoption! I feel it tugging at my elbow, itching to be written!
Beth Kozan is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Helping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.