Monday, September 9, 2013

Removing the Rust (or...Deep Thoughts While Restoring the Purple Tandem)

“You could use it for a planter.”

That’s what my bike restoration guy, Dean, said when he unwrapped the parts of my purple tandem last Saturday.

I’ll admit it: the bike is in rough shape. A lot of rust. The wheels are pretty much useless. There’s a weird section of the frame covered in years old masking tape, like a limb stuck for decades in a cast. But I told Dean that no matter how bad it looked, I knew my bike could be restored. If he could help me with the mechanics to make it rideable, I would do all the work necessary to remove the rust and make it shine.

As I work in my garage, steel wool in one hand and rusty fender in the other, I can’t help but laugh about how much this purple tandem really is a metaphor for my writing. Luckily no one has ever told me that my writing could be used for a planter (or to line a bird cage), but there were times I’ve had critique partners or agents tell me a manuscript is in rough shape. Early on in my writing life, I let those words discourage me. So I tucked those manuscripts away and forgot about them. They grew rusty.

Now, when I open those old files, I can see past the rust. I know there’s a story in there wanting to shine, if I’m willing to put in the hard work. Revision is my steel wool.

(Purple tandem restoration status: My steel wool and I have de-rusted the handle bars, fenders, and pedals, along with other various doo-dads; need to work on seats, the frame, and figure out what do to about replacement wheels. Hoping to have it rideable for the October launch of my dear friend, author/illustrator Lindsay Ward’s newest picture book, PLEASE BRING BALLOONS…a nighttime adventure involving a carousel, a polar bear, balloons, and maybe a certain type of bike.)

Question for you: Do you have a rusty manuscript that you’d like to restore someday?


  1. What, still no pictures???

    I cannibalize old manuscripts for parts to reuse in newer (and better) stories.

  2. SO true. Just because the writing wasn't up to par doesn't mean the stories suck. I've done the same thing with old manuscripts, and I still have some that would make great planters. Awesome post and metaphor. ;-)


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