Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, taking a break from some spring cleaning. Clearing stuff out. Digging through cartons. Figuring out what stays and what goes. Books. Papers. Manuscripts. Notes.
Yes, in the back corner of a closet I came upon a carton of manuscripts. Well, more than one carton. Manuscripts on faded dot matrix paper. Page proofs as they arrived back from the publisher, once the books were in print. Manuscripts with long-forgotten working titles. (No, I didn’t have a McMorrow novel called BATTERED.)
So here’s the question, for writers and readers alike. What do you do with all this stuff? Stick it back in the box? Hide it out in the barn? Wait for a university to bid for my papers? Save it for the museum?
Other options: Save the stuff for the kids, give it away like zucchini. (Hey, everybody take a carton on the way out.) Give it away to lucky readers (you said you wanted a book, well, here you go). Save the papers for contest prizes. (You are the lucky winner of 350 pages of yellowed manuscript, complete with mouse gnawings).
Well, the good thing about having one of these big old 19th century Maine houses is that you don’t really have to throw anything away if you don’t want to. You just shuffle stuff around. And I’m having second thoughts about trucking this kind of thing to the dump.
And not just because of the nostalgia factor. (I remember thinking BATTERED was a really good title). But because as I look at my last two or three books, I realize that in the future there won’t be boxes of manuscripts. There won’t be faded stacks of paper. There won’t be four versions of a mystery novel, each one printed out, scribed with notes. There won’t be cartons of anything.
This, my friends, is the last vestige of the paper era. Writers coming up now will leave their kids a couple of thumb drives. Leave their laptops to posterity.
There’s something so tactile about a stack of paper. It’s got heft. It’s got bulk. A novel, printed out, looks like a lot or words and a lot of work. All those scribbles, arrows and slashes and cross-outs are moments in the writing process, frozen in time.
So what do you think? What would you do with all of this, if anything? I’m open to ideas. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for a new home for all these boxes of paper. Good thing I have a barn.