by Laura Caldwell
Jason Pinter, a good writer friend, tweeted last week that he was "tinkering" with a manuscript. I tweeted back, "God is in the tinkering." I meant it when I wrote it, but it wasn't until today, when I'm supposed to submit my first (completely rewritten) non-fiction book to my editor, that I realized tinkering isn't just a form of polishing your manuscript, it is also, at least for me, a way of saying sayonara.
It's the writer's version of seeing a kid off to college. You're relieved the time has finally come, but it's bittersweet all the same. So instead of sending them with a case of Rammen noodles and some old sheets, you shop the Container Store for the best shower caddies and Bed, Bath & Beyond for matching linens. Writing wise, I have been putting in a comma here, deleting a phrase there (then adding it back in, then deleting it).
Finishing this book is even more bittersweet than turning in my novels, because it's about my now-friend, former-client, Jovan Mosley, who was in a holding cell in Cook County for six years awaiting a trial for murder. Since representing Jovan in 2005, I've been living with this book--writing parts of it in my head, scribbling notes on napkins, reading thousands of pages of transcripts, reliving the trial with my other friend, Cathy O'Daniel, the lawyer who really did the heavy lifting on Jovan's case. But now the story has been amassed and the details nailed down. Like the kid off to college, it's time to say to the book, I'll be here if you need me, but meanwhile, you're on your own.