By Millie Baker Ragosta
The introduction of personal computers was supposed to be the precursor of the paperless age. As an author whose income depends on the sale of books, I admit I felt a bit of trepidation at that, but, immediately, was ashamed of my selfishness. Any librarian could tell you all the paper on earth could crumble into dust soon.
The thought of Millie Ragosta’s “Huntingdon Chronicles” disappearing forever didn’t bother me—I’m not that self-centered—but fearing we could lose the wonderful wisdom of the ages contained in books really scares me so I accept—yes welcome the invention of the computer.
Theoretically, we no longer need to cut down beautiful trees to make paper and we’ve learned recycling, too.
When I began selling my work, I soon learned the author’s side of the publishing process . . . which didn’t end when you packed the finished manuscript in a box and carted it to the post-office where you mailed it manuscript-rate-with-first-class-enclosure.
The post-office once lost one of my manuscripts which caused me a near-nervous-breakdown. Even as I took the manuscript to be recopied, I told myself they never lost any of Vince’s or Bill’s sporting-goods catalogs. Sometimes, they even sent three or four copies.
However, when my editor had received my manuscript, read and shared it with the rest of the editorial staff and they’d all approved it, the manuscript would start on its long journey toward publication. First, it would be copy-edited by more than one editor who would reposition my misplaced modifiers and other depredations, send it back to me for my final approval of the changes. I never dared to argue with them until the day they assigned the copy-editing to a new editor, a gorgeous blonde. I had to challenge her editing butchery as tactfully as I could and thanked heaven she always allowed my final word stand.
(Incidentally, my next editor was great; I don’t know what happened to Blondie.)
Two months after a book’s publication, the editor would send me a package containing the copy-edited manuscript, the tear-sheets (or the initial printing of the manuscript, each long sheet containing roughly two and a half printed pages of what the book will eventually contain) and the copy-editor’s style-sheet. They called this package the “foul matter,” which, at first, made me think they were trying to tell me something.
At last, my book would be a reality and I felt free to recycle the “foul matter.” The first few of these remainders I gave to various school libraries so budding writers could learn about the publishing process. But there were only so many school libraries in my area so I began using the backs of the manuscript pages as perfect for first, second or even third-drafts of each novel-in-the-works. I was glad when our town began providing recycling bins into which I could drop the packages, secure in the knowledge they’d be turned into new paper.
Don’t miss the rest of this article starting on page 28 of the August issue of Better Beagling!