Sunday, June 21, 2009
What it's like to be filmed
In 1999 I signed with McGraw-Hill to write a handbook. Delayed by surgeries, family deaths, being department chair, and then having a car wreck that derailed me for months, I didn't really get started on writing the handbook for several years. At last, though, Writing Matters will soon be published.
It's standard wisdom in composition and rhetoric to speak of textbooks as something one does for money—not one's day job. My experience has been different. I wanted to write a handbook because as both a writer and a teacher I'm an avid handbook user, and I thought I could write a better handbook than what was available on the market. Over the past seven years (no, that's not a typo) as I've worked energetically on drafts and revisions, I've increasingly come to realize that the handbook is a place where I can put my scholarly insights into practice and share them with other teachers and students. Now, that's a pretty good thing. But an even better thing is the realization that the handbook and my scholarship are now in full synergy; as I write the book and talk with other teachers, I have myriad "eurekas" that go right back into the scholarship.
These are surprises. Delightful ones. When I signed the handbook in 1999, I had no idea my scholarship would so directly contribute to it, and I certainly had no idea that it would directly and excitingly contribute to my scholarship.
Nor did I have any idea the handbook would make me a movie star.
Remember those things you wanted to be when you were a kid? The first one I remember was wanting to be a nurse. That was in, like, third grade. By the time I was in high school, my ambitions had pretty much solidified: I wanted to be in a loving relationship (I probably had Troy Donahue in mind), and I wanted to be a professor, a writer, and a movie star.
As an adult I've laughed about how I achieved all but one of those ambitions. I'm in a 33-years-and-counting loving relationship with the Beloved Partner, someone far more wonderful than Troy; I'm a professor; and I'm a writer.
Now the handbook brings #4 to life: I'm a movie star. I've spent an entire day in a New York studio being filmed. Well, okay, it's not for the movies but for handbook supplements. But it was an actual studio and an actual film crew, so I've put a check mark beside that item on my lifetime to-do list. Who knew writing a textbook could involve film stardom?
And what was it like? It was groovy. If you're a ham like me, you eat this stuff up. There was a stylist who brought an enormous suitcase of supplies for the purpose of making me look presentable. That was a half-hour job or more, and by the time she was done, I could barely hold my head up under the weight of all that makeup. But by golly, I was indeed presentable. I spent the day in that studio, happy with what I was wearing: a pair of earrings that Melisa had given me; a scarf from Kelly; and a necklace that Mary made. I had my friends with me, and I had professionals making me look good. I had McGraw-Hill folks talking me through the process, and I had professionals doing a great job with the filming.
The only thing better will be seeing this book in print, at long last.