“Did you bring your outline?” she asks. She wears black leggings and tank top, and her long dark hair curls, loose and unrestrained, about her shoulders.
No, I think, I don’t have an outline. I didn’t use an outline. The story emerged organically, by surprise, and I translated it from thought and dream to the page as it arrived.
Silently, I shake my head.
“That’s too bad,” she said. She holds a long, metal ruler in one hand. It flashes, sharp-edged with light, as she crosses the room in easy strides. “It’s easier to give input and feedback based on your outline.”
I’m not sure I want input. Or feedback. Of any kind. Good, bad, or otherwise. Why am I even at this workshop? The hotel room feels increasingly constricted, although it is large and airy.
I watch uneasily as she approaches the unmade bed. White sheets and comforter knot and twist and fall to the floor, their folds and creases filled with blue shadow. All but the throw blanket tossed on top – a plush, pink sweep of soft color. Beneath those layers, those folds of white and pink and blue, is my manuscript – just shy of two-hundred pages, clamped tight by a black binder clip, contained in a battered manila folder.
Ruler held loosely in hand, she arrives at the bedside and pushes back the plush pink blanket, peels away white comforter and sheets. My nerves spark and dash. She opens the worn folder, flips past the first dozen pages to lay the ruler vertically along a random sheet.
“You have to watch your margins,” she says. With a blue pencil, she marks the right side of the page, then the left. “If your margins are off, even a little, your book can’t be bound or printed.” She adjusts the ruler to mark horizontal lines along the top and bottom margins. “These look good,” she says, looking up at me. Her dark, neat brows arch with surprised approval. Ruler flashing, she leaves the bed. Sheets and blankets fall back into place like a receding tide.
I smile. Relief floods and soothes. In a single inhalation, I fill my lungs – I didn’t realize I had held my breath. From the corner of my eye, I glance at my manuscript. Thumbed pages in a worn folder, tucked and enfolded in soft pink layers. Unbound. Unread. Safe.