Friday, August 27, 2010

Come As You Are

I'd just finished pouring a cup of water over my head and another down my shirt after sweating out two sets of singles in 93 degree heat. Sounds messy, I know, but us diehard tennis players who stubbornly insist on playing through central Florida summers do it often to prevent heatstroke. If you're already slathered in sweat, what's a little more water, right?

So I'm dripping, stinky and exhausted as I slide onto my car seat (and when you're that sweaty, I do mean slide) and check my phone for messages. I was expecting a message from a newspaper reporter whose call I had returned right before my tennis match (we're not allowed to have our phones on court; they disturb other players).

Cranking the car to get the AC blasting my blotchy, beet-red, face, I wasn't surprised to hear a male voice reciting his message. But it wasn't the reporter. It was the male secretary from the rehab center where I work part-time:

"Just wanted to let you know we scheduled a splint patient for you at 11:00 Friday. See you then."

WHAT?? My eyes darted to my watch; it was 10:45. On Friday. My day off.

I punched the center's number in frustration. They shouldn't have done that, but they did. And now a patient who needed a splint for his wounded hand was trustingly filling out paper work.

'I ... you .... Why? ... Listen, I'm not prepared to work today," I sputtered. "I'm a half hour from home and I'm not in work clothes ..."

"Just come as you are!" the clueless secretary responded. "Nobody will mind."

"Well I MIND! You don't know what you're asking!" I looked down at my tiny barely-bum-covering tennnis skirt, the half moon sweat marks beneath my armpits and the soaking white tennis blouse stuck to my sports bra. I had on not a drop of make=up and a clay-stained Nike hat holding back my greasy, soaking hair, for heaven's sake. I couldn't have looked less professional if I'd tried.

My effort to douse the nasty smell enveloping me in a cloud like the dirt from Charlie Brown's friend Pigpen only resulted in a nauseating mix of Spring Bouquet body spray and B.O. I felt like I was back in the high school girl's locker room on flag football day.

But off to work I go. Hi Ho, Hi Ho.

Of course none of the therapists had a lab coat or even an extra sweater to try to camoflage my inappropriateness. And when the patient (a young black man) eyed me warily as I called him from the waiting room, I could only come up with, "I know I don't look like a therapist, but I am one, really. I, um ... I thought this was the day we decided to do Halloween early (try two months early!) so I'm supposed to be Serena Williams."

At least that got a chuckle out of him, but it dawned on me how risky the invitation to "Come as you are" can be. There's no telling what a disgusting mess you might find if people take you up on it.

Yet Papa God extends that very invitation to each of us when He calls us to Himself. Come as you are. With your ugly attitudes, sinfulness, full of pride, unable to help yourself ... come on, dear child, and I'll cover it all up and make you clean as the new-fallen snow. No matter how you started, you'll end up beautiful.

And thank the Good Lord His body wash works inside and out!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Now I get it.

As a writing late bloomer (I started writing professionally at age 45), it never ceases to amaze me how many people think they can just jump in and write a book without doing their homework. I spent three years researching, writing articles, attending writing conferences and consuming every industry how-to I could get my hands on before wading into the book publication waters, and then it was with fear and trembling.

I started small (articles and submitting short pieces to compilations and devotionals) and worked my way up to books. And I always followed the advice of successful authors (which you can easily find if you just seek) and invested in good editors before submitting my manuscript to agents or publishing house editors.

At the writing mini-workshop I taught over the weekend (one of dozens I've taught at bookstores and libraries), I spoke with several authors of self-published books who hadn't bothered to have their manuscripts professionally edited before turning them over for printing. Unfortunately, this lack of preparation inevitably shows in the quality of the writing, and reflects poorly on self-published books in general.

One of the authors didn't even know his book was self-published because "it was accepted by a publisher," until I asked, "Well, did they require money to print your book?"

"Only three thousand dollars," was his reply.

I wanted to say, "Good heavens! For three thousand dollars, shouldn't you take enough pride in your work to have it edited properly?" I really don't understand.

I'm not just talking grammar and punctuation here. I'm talking 16 pages of throat-clearing introduction before beginning the first chapter. Or not even pre-plotting out major events in a "fictional novel" (a HUGE redundant no-no as a book is referred to as either a novel or fiction, not both), or using real names and real events without asking permission.

When I first delved into books and faced my 9th traditional press rejection for The Distant Shore, I thought about self-publishing. I recall the advice of published authors to exhaust all possibilities in traditional publishing first because of the stigma attached to self-publishing. Sub-quality editing was the difference, they said. I didn't fully grasp their meaning at the time, and thankfully, my manuscript was finally accepted by a small press who provided its own editing in addition to the professional editing I had already procured, which produced a quite acceptable end product (in my humble opinion).

But I get it now.

After wading through beginner model book manuscripts from people who just decide to sit down and whip out the memoir or novel they've always dreamed of without a lick of preparation, I do indeed get it now.