I have two friends of very long standing. We call ourselves the Three Divas and send each other dumb blonde jokes, since we all were blondes (two of them still are) (one way or another). We worked together in the Seventies, and we try to get together once a year or so for a weekend of hilarity and discovery, over the years sharing our personal tragedies large and small, and joys, all of them large. One now lives in San Diego, and the other in Kent, WA.
Both are writers and editors, and readers. They were the first readers of the final draft of my manuscript, which I sent to them chapter by chapter as I finished editing. Their feedback was invaluable. They caught errors in typing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, because they were educated when I was, during the time when such subjects were important in school, before texting. But more importantly, they loved the novel, and said so, and pushed me to aggressively pursue publishing. They fell in love with my main character, Addie, and said so. They stayed up late reading it, knowing they had to go to work early, because they “couldn’t put it down.” They have constantly encouraged, prodded, pushed, and inspired me with regular e-mails, my personal “fan club” of people I admire and respect and rely on.
A third friend is one I have seen only a few times. She was in high school with my husband, Jack, and was the best friend of his wife, Helen, who died in 1979. She is a professional journalist and writer who lives in New Jersey, and we have developed a loving friendship over the last thirty years, with letters and then e-mails and a visit or two. She knitted a huge turquoise afghan for her friend when Helen was in her final illness, and that afghan is imbued with such expansive love and presence and care that I wrap myself in it when I need to experience all of that. She was the third reader of my manuscript, before my writing group received the final draft and began their reviews. Her comments were detailed and helpful, even suggesting how to find an agent and a publisher. She has written her own novel, which I am now reading on my Sony reader.
The last reader, after the writing group reviews and after my own final revision, was a local friend I’ve known for less than a year, but I’ve come to think of her as another diva-type friend. (OK, she’s blonde, too, as is the New Jersey friend. Hmmm.) This friend is an avid reader, an accomplished poet, and a writer. She offered to do a final read on the manuscript before I sent it off to agents and publishers. Her comments were exactly what I needed at that stage: no major fixes, but noting important small details.
My granddaughter, who recently graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, read the manuscript a year ago, along with my writing group. Her most helpful comment led to a complete revision of the last chapter.
In February, 2010, we spent a week in Kauai with our four children and their partners, for a rare and memorable vacation. I took the manuscript, and they all read it. Their comments were loving and encouraging–not what I’d call critiques, but that’s not what I needed from them.
These loved ones, along with my treasured writing group, will have the first copies of Looking Through Water, this week when my first author copies arrive.