By Sage Cohen
With my Writing the Life Poetic book proposal safely in editor Jane Friedman’s capable hands at Writer’s Digest Books, my evenings and weekends belonged to me once again. I e-mailed my friend Sam and said, “Ok, ok, I’m ready to be introduced.” About a year prior, Sam had suggested that I meet his friend and housemate. At the time I was dating someone. Then, I was exploring ways to leave Portland. Now, I had no excuse.
So, in February 2007, Sam sent an introductory e-mail to a man named Jonathan-a naturopathic medical school student–and me. This launched a volley of engaging quips back and forth across the ether, which then unfolded to an exchange of exquisite essays. Jonathan could write! Through his poetic prose, I got a glimpse into the mind and heart of this kind, articulate, entrancing man. After three weeks of verbal strut and seduction, we decided to meet.
I got to the tea shop early and, after trying three different tables, chose one by the entrance where I nervously tried to arrange myself in a position that looked casual. Please, let him be at least a little bit handsome, I pleaded with the universe. When Jonathan walked through the door (he was a LOT handsome!), our eyes met and my future flashed before my eyes. Though we had never met before, I recognized him. There was a peaceful, smiling feeling between us with an electric hum. This man, confirmed my inner Goldilox, fits just right.
Fortunately, Jon’s inner Goldilox was in agreement. We spent the mild evening meandering through parks and urban neighborhoods, telling stories and sinking in to the ease of each other’s company. Our courtship transitioned from there to hikes, picnics, homemade cheesecake and conversations that kept us awake through those exquisite first-love nights. Eight weeks later, sure as I’ve ever been, we were engaged.
Within days, a double-whammy of good news came. Jane Friedman liked my proposal, but wanted to see a slightly different direction to narrow the book’s focus a bit. As the guy who responded to Jon’s craiglist ad was carrying out Jon’s bachelor-days mattress and box spring and Jon was packing the last of his belongings into my car, I sat on the floor of his emptying room and put the finishing touches on my proposal revision.
Once again, Jane was pleased but her inner Goldilox wasn’t ready to commit. She requested a detailed Table of Contents, and I dove back in, writing and dreaming in every margin of our meet-the-family east-coast-summer-tour. As the tender first roots of the Jon-and-Sage extended family were taking hold, Writing the Life Poetic came into focus.
A week before the Willamette Writers conference, I volleyed the TOC and detailed chapter overviews back across the net. Since Jane and I would both be attending the conference, we agreed to meet there and take this conversation into real time.
My inner Goldilox liked Jane immediately. She was smart (very smart), articulate, humble and collaborative. We quickly ironed out the remaining few questions we had about the book’s structure, content and vision; then we set expectations for content delivery dates. I left the conference with Jane’s blessing. A month later-nine months after that first query letter was sent-I signed on the dotted line and started writing.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University and teaches the e-mail class Poetry for the People. In September 2008, her son Theo Luchs-Cohen initiated Sage into the life of the writer mama.