When a box of ARCs arrives at my house, I go over them like any author would, studying what’s been included on the back cover, lovingly taking in every detail of what’s inside besides the story itself (this time around there’s wonderful praise for Blue Birds and a stunning Klondike goldfields map).
As soon as I can, I sit down with the book for a celebratory read through. It always takes a bit of adjustment at first, seeing words on the left-hand side of the page (when working with a printed draft, I keep everything one sided), but soon I’m involved with the story, as I hope future readers will be.
This reading is a both looking forward and back. It’s the culmination of years of hard work and the realization the book is no longer mine alone. Like any completed piece of art, a piece moves from create to connect when it is given to a broader audience. Meaning and interpretation and all those potential opinions — they aren’t mine to shape or even know. They aren’t for me, anyway, just as the book is no longer for me. As Katherine Paterson says,
Once a book is published, it no longer belongs to me. My creative task is done. The work now belongs to the creative mind of my readers. I had my turn to make of it what I could; now it is their turn.
This weekend, I sat with Jasper on airplanes, in airports, and in the Orlando sunshine, grateful for the opportunity to see it as a whole, completed thing, and super grateful that even this late in the game there is a chance to make corrections (Because errors — there still in there! I found I’d typed west when I meant east, that Jasper claimed to see someone nod his head even though he’d just closed his eyes, that one particular paragraph worked better moved over half a page and another was much stronger broken up and reassembled.).
Here you go, Jasper. You’re ready to make it on your own without me. I wish you many readers and friends on this next leg of your adventure.