Posts What’s it like to write a book?

What’s it like to write a book?

by treenaorchard

Some writers begin their work with a prayer, and some turn off their Wi-Fi. Others enter the flow when the kids are sleeping. Like Sylvia Plath, like so many women. There are authors who start with the last sentence, which feels God-like and scary. Some, like me, share their work widely along the way and there are those who don’t let anyone read a sentence until it’s published. We’re always different animals.

I start early, take many breaks, and munch on assorted salted nuts while sipping strong coffee. A candle is lit, usually a three-wicked cheapy from the grocery store, and I try to let the thoughts bloom. They tap me on the shoulder while I’m on the toilet and make me pause while pulling open the fridge door. Remember me, they say. Make room for me.

I look out the window a lot, and must add roofs, cedar trees, and squirrels to the acknowledgements section. Into the baroque flower wallpaper on my phone’s home screen, I’ve typed : “MY BOOK HAS A DESTINY.” Things from inside my head take shape on the page like a fishbone. Ribs of ideas and tails of tales. It’s invisible magic, and I have much to learn.

Like how to better skin my stories and loosen the red meat from what covers it. Show not tell, and don’t be so concrete. Let the birds inside sing. The ones who flutter their wings when the memories return, and my mouth tastes like rust. Sometimes I feel lost. So many swooshes of black cloth with just enough light for the readers to make it out. Is it a cape or a shroud? Maybe it’s a hooded sack.


A maroon mini-van pulls up in front of my house, with unrecognizable but loud music blaring inside. A basic guy in glasses bops his head up and down to the beat while squinting into the morning sun. He doesn’t see me crouched down next to the white hydrangea; my floral frenemy whose ambition threatens to overtake the order I’m trying to establish in the front yard. The little weeds come out easy after the rain.

I then rise and assume the homeowner stance, peering at him incredulously as if to say: ‘You there, what are you doing in front of my house?’ The guy at the wheel looks at me for a second then faces straight ahead, like you do when you want to pretend what just happened didn’t. A few more seconds of meaningless awkward pass before a young man crosses the street and runs up to the driver.

He pulls open the back door and hops into the van. A sexy smile creeps across my face as I put the pieces together.  His crisp white t-shirt looks just like the one worn by the other young guy I observed leaving my neighbour’s house last week, also quite early in the morning. But that guy had his own car. Do the people next door or beside my house see this? Do they see me?

They might think the hippie prince in the Subaru only comes over every now and then because that’s what she wants. The woman who bought that house by herself, who freely orders Amazon products and keeps upgrading her home. But they don’t know how often I travel to his beautiful place, which I sometimes clean and stock with ice cream and gifts.

I want to keep licking his fingers in the dark. I want him to feel and to see that I’m worth it. Several months ago, I carried an orange toothbrush in my purse and nervously asked if I could leave it. It’s travelled from the downstairs bathroom, where it lived alone in a long stiff drawer, to the top floor bathroom drawer where it lays next to the black hairbrush. A plastic X in the territory of love.  

I’d like to see him more and I like things just as they are. Pacing is hard for women who usually charge through because of fear and a history of being reduced to sex. I’m scared to open the topic of we, and for now basking in his sunshine is glorious. It comes strong, like his golden limbs and hair that winds its way around my mouth. Sometimes I find it in my body after we part, his X.

He writes stories too. The pages begin with the singsong alarm at 6.10 am and as he puts earth into earth, they fill with life. And beauty, which he brings to each job and each time I ask him to tell me the plant name in Latin. Just looking at his pretty mouth turns me to jelly and by the time the scientific syllables leave his lips I’m done.

I tell my friend that what he does is creation. She pauses and says: “Your voice sounds calm when you talk about him.” That feels good. We look ahead as the car plods through the poorly synchronized lights and past the sunburned homeless people, towards the art gallery, towards beauty.

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Dr. Treena Orchard

London, Ontario

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