‘Meike, wake up!’ From far away the Nymph’s voice reaches my ear. She is shaking me by the shoulder. Slowly I surface from a deep sleep. I open one eye and see Peirene standing next to my bed.
‘What’s the time?’ I mumble.
‘Quarter to six. We are facing a total catastrophe.’ The Nymph switches on my beside lamp. I squint and turn to the other side, hiding my head under the duvet. ‘It’s far too early, Peirene. I’m getting up at 7. So please leave me alone.’ I can’t possibly imagine what “catastrophe” could justify such an early start.
I feel Peirene organising pillows behind my head, then she pulls me up into a sitting position. She pushes a cup of hot coffee into my hands. ‘Drink! You will need it.’ She helps me guide the cup to my mouth. I begin to sip realizing that I have lost the battle. She won’t let me get back to sleep.
‘So, what’s happening?’ I look at the Nymph. She’s a mess. Dark shadows under her eyes, her complexion white as a wall and her hair standing up from her head in big, wild knots.
‘I couldn’t sleep.’ Her lower lip begins to quiver. ‘Because I was so excited to go through the next draft of breach. I got up an hour ago and began to read.’ She gasps for air. ‘We can’t publish it.’
She takes the cup out of my hands and places the manuscript into my lap. ‘Read and see for yourself.’
I throw a quick glance at the pages, then I tap at the edge of the bed. I clearly need to calm down the Nymph first. The previous draft was good, it just needed a couple of extra scenes and work on the overall story arch. ‘Sit down,’ I say. ‘How much did you read?’
‘The first three chapters.’
‘But there are eight chapters,’ I point out.
‘So why did you stop?’
‘The first chapter works. But then the second is all over the place and the third only works up to the half way point.’
‘It might just be a question of rearranging the plot and fine tuning.’ I pick up the pages.
Three hours later I lift my head again. While I was engrossed in the text, the Nymph sat very still in the armchair, hardly daring to breath.
‘And?’ She looks at me with big, worried eyes.
‘It’s great. The ending in particular is brilliant.’ I jump out of bed. ‘I can feel the characters inside me, breathing, alive. Yes, chapter two and three still need some attention. But Olu and Annie are good writers. They’ll get there.’ I slip into my clothes. ‘I’m so pleased that we are publishing this book.’
‘You think I overreacted?’
I walk over to the Nymph and squeeze her pale face between my hands. ‘It’s never good to read a manuscript after a sleepless night. Every typo feels like the end of the world. Go back to bed for a couple of hours, then finish the story. And I promise you an exciting read.’
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by Jean L., creative commons.
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 10 April 2016.