My father's been working on a book for a long time. A fictional novel with large dashes of memoir about a man, his dog, the Vietnam war, and tales of San Francisco while he plays piano at the Top of The Mark.
I'd been reading and listening to parts of the book for the past year. When Dad was finally ready to let us take a peek at the finished work, he gave me a binder-bound copy, and asked me to read it and let him know what suggestions I had. I started making my editor's notes in the margin. Halfway into making notes, an idea: somehow, Dad needed a hardbound copy of his book.
Cajoling him into sending me the electronic copy in Word was the hardest part. When TypePad did a holiday cross-promo with Blurb, who make books out of your blog (and just about anything else) I knew I had the final piece of the puzzle. Then came the next hardest part: editing the damn thing. All 400+ pages.
I have a newfound respect for editors. Knowing when to cut a word, when to rephrase a paragraph: when does the author's work end and the editor's begin? I stuck to the essentials: correcting a sentence structure here, a continuity error there. Added artwork and reformatted and noodled around with the page layout. The first time I loaded the whole thing into BookSmart, the software choked and crashed: too much text. It was pure joy, though, to work with the book. It reminded me of using Pagemaker and blog templates all rolled in one.
It was coming down to the wire for Christmas delivery, and it looked like the book wouldn't get sent on time to SF. Fortunately, Padraic, the Blurb staff person on duty pulled some magic out of his hat and somehow rerouted the book to be delivered to my parents' house on December 24th. As a fellow customer service person, I've got to give Padraic a huge shout-out for being awesome and going out of his way to help. Rock out, dude.
The DC area, of course, was recently walloped with unexpected amounts of snow, and after four or five increasingly frantic calls to FedEx, Dad's book wasn't on the truck. It was sitting in the warehouse only a few miles away. All that work for it to just to sit until after Christmas? If it were any other present, it wouldn't be a big deal, but this was THE GIFT. I couldn't just give Dad some socks after all that.
I drove to the warehouse, put on my sweetest smile, and made it clear I was. not. leaving. Politely and clearly: please help me. I know it's Christmas, you must be going crazy, everyone's got a problem and they're rude and annoying and UGH working on the holiday, there's no reason you should help me, but: please. Please help.
It must be good customer service karma that I've put out into the universe, because two hours later I was tearing into THE box in a frozen parking lot. Hoping and praying that the book turned out as well as I hoped it would.
As the final present under the tree, after a year of ups, downs, and sideways, after changes and sadness and joy and not a lot of money for gifts, the evidence:
He's still out in the living room reading through his lovely, lovely book.
May your days be merry and bright, may you get your own gifts you didn't even know you wanted, and may each of you have the joy of giving someone you love something completely freakin' awesome.