I had to look through my files for this topic because I honestly don’t remember much about the editing. And since I couldn’t find any notes on the editing, I guess I can assume it was pretty much standard stuff.
“Standard stuff” for me usually includes making my characters more sympathetic. If you’re familiar with Myers/Briggs, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I’m a “T” woman–a thinker, not a feeler. So my characters tend to come off as intellectual and aloof, though I’ve been trying to work on that. In any case, I often hear that I need to make my characters more sympathetic, and I’m pretty sure I heard that about Alex, my protagonist of the Canopy.
I do remember one particular thing–my editor, Ami McConnell, sent me page proofs of the title page, which were scattered with butterflies, crickets, and roaches! I told her I loved the butterflies and crickets, but could we please do without the roaches? As a Florida girl, I’ve seen too many of those for my comfort.
The girl who went with me to the jungle, Gaynel, is into scrapbooking (VBG), so I’ve included a collage of our trip. From the top: if you’ve read The Canopy, you may remember a story where Michael was approached by some street boys for whom he bought lemonade. That episode really happened to us with these boys. Bottom right: the lodge where we stayed had only four guests that April–me and Gaynel and this father and son from Nebraska. Bottom right: After our week in the jungle, I was thrilled to find an internet cafe where we could contact the outside world!
The plight of the “street boys” (they live on the street) was really brought home to me one night in the city of Iquitos when Gaynel and I stopped at a restaurant and ordered a pizza (the one thing we recognized on the menu.) After we’d eaten our fill, some pizza was left over. The waitress came over and said something in Spanish–all I caught was the word “nino,” which I knew meant “boy.”
For some reason I thought she was asking if I wanted to take the leftovers to my little boy, so I smiled and said that my little boy was in “los Estados Unidos.” Gaynel was quicker than I, and she said, “No, I think she wants to know if she can give it to those boys.” She pointed out the door, and I saw one of the little boys who’d been following us around with a water bottle, offering to clean our tennis shoes for a donation.
Instantly, my heart broke–and I wished I hadn’t eaten as much as I did. We immediately invited the little boy in, and he came and set on our leftover pizza like it was the last food in the world. We asked his name and found out that he was about nine, I think–maybe eight. In any case, it wasn’t our last encounter with the boys. The pizza incident happened on our first night in Iquitos. When we came back a week later, in preparation for our return home, that’s when I saw a flock of boys and bought them a pitcher of lemonada. It was a sweltering hot day, and I can tell you that lemonade tasted like heaven!
Tomorrow: The results and reader reaction
Photo: view from the rainforest canopy