I spent the first hour of my office hours rearranging images for a lecture on Vietnam and answering email. After that, it was time to proofread the actual pages of the print edition of Marvin's Book.
It was real. 167 pages of real, with just the right font and perfect footnotes on the right pages. I didn't swoon, I didn't gloat. I got out a pen (red) and hunted for my own bloopers.
Because Marvin's Book is partly a book of grief and loss, I'm kinda drained from writing it. So there, I said it. It was hard to write about losing students and a friend, and re-reading the stories doesn't take a bit of the sting of grief away.
But today I have to read it, it is time. This book will be in airports. It will be available in at least 31 countries. I can't have my own bloopers.
So I read. And my eyes danced on a few funny things I forgot, then stuck on something new. I write about chocolate eclairs and carrot cake in one chapter. Chocolate fudge Pop Tarts play a big role in a different chapter. Oh my gosh, I skim the pages. I wonder whether to be ashamed or not, then decide I'm hungry and continue to lament nobody feeds me.
This is a problem that one day will solve itself, I am sure. Until then, there is the Student Union. So I gather myself and stroll off to Subway for breakfast and forget myself and order lunch (why?). After the awesome guy goes to the back and finds me a pack of the sacred jalapeno chips, I tuck my money in my pocket and march back to my office, stomach rumbling, and mildly confused on why I wasn't holding grits and eggs.
After I eat my lunch (happily) I realize there is cash in my back pocket, which is strange because I know I brought my wallet to the Student Union.
I hunt in my purse, in my computer case and I even open my office windows to see if it could have fallen out the window and onto the hedges below. Nothing.
I call Subway.
Its there. Sigh. I ready myself to march back.
Dr. V is now in his office across from mine and he sees me rush out.
I stop myself and collapse a little with humility as I admit to him I was about to do "the walk of shame" to go pick up my wallet. I shrug, salute him, and head out.
He sees I'm frustrated and calls after me, "Melissa, you can't do the walk of shame. You're Cuban!"
That makes me perk up a bit.
I've already turned the corner and done a little three step salsa to cheer myself up and call back cheerfully, "That's RIGHT! I'm CUBAN! VIVA!"
His deep laugh fills the hallway behind me, "No! I said HUMAN! I said YOU'RE HUMAN! It's HUMAN to make mistakes"
I heard him and giggled, thankful for the timely reminder.
In the last day I've gone from writer to author and I'm happy to report so far, so good. I've stayed on top of the dishes and done three loads of laundry. I steadfastly refuse to sweep or vacuum or do the toilets.
I spent a great deal of first day as an author getting facebook messages from students who were in the book. I learned I misspelled Zac's name. The student code-named "Joy" finished the book and was ready to celebrate with me. So was David Lowe.
I'm happy to report Morgan has read about herself in the book and even though it made her cry she loved it. Which is a huge relief. Also, her mom wants to know what's this whole thing about "LYSOL" and I guess Morgan's going to have to explain that part (good luck, sunshine).
As much of a celebration as it is to finish and publish a book, it didn't seem quite right to have a party to celebrate a book whose roots are so deeply planted in grief. If you didn't know that, here is the long description that will be on the book jacket.
I swear to you, I worked harder on this than I did on most of the book. I didn't know how much of the story to give away, but then again, I wanted someone who picks it up at an airport (OMG MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE AT AIRPORTS OMG OMG OMG) to pick it up and take it with them, wherever.
MARVIN'S BOOK: THE STORY OF A PROFESSOR AND A PROMISE
Have you ever made a promise that dogged you through years, nagging you silently? Melissa Soldani Lemon did in 2000 when her student, Marvin Mark Scott, died in a single-car accident on the way to school. In her grief, she reached out to the young man's family and promised to write a book for Marvin and start a scholarship in his honor.
Ten years, two children and many semesters of teaching college history later, Soldani Lemon had amassed a growing following of readers for the hilarious stories on her blog, but no book had yet emerged. She finally sat down to fulfill her promise—only to find herself facing new raw grief in the unexpected deaths of a colleague and another student, both of whom had encouraged her to fulfill her promise.
Now she was really stuck. How could she write Marvin's book when she only wrote stories with happy endings? Melissa’s journey to answer that question takes us a roller coaster ride through a year of new students, service projects honoring United States veterans, office hours, exams and graduations as she interweaves inspirational stories with outrageously funny bloopers taken from real student exams. In the end, it is a student veteran "exiled" in a VA nursing home who leads her to find a bright and hopeful ending to this story.
You will laugh, cry and rekindle your belief in the power of intention as Melissa turns the promise of a book for Marvin into Marvin's Book: The Story of a Professor and a Promise.
One thing. If I could do yesterday again, maybe I would have had a party or at least forced my kids to go to Chikfila, at least, just because I love those ketchup packets so much.