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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Brown

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My editor tells me that the book will come out in July. The cover will look like this:



I sent it off on December 15, or possibly on December 14; my memory of that week is foggy. A handful of folks read through it. I double-checked images and captions. Fretting over whether to include a complete bibliography or a selected bibliography was unexpectedly stressful. When I assembled the complete bibliography--every archival document, every painting's collection record, every learned article and book--it ran to upwards of 20 pages. Taking out the archival sources and museum websites brought the length down substantially and made it easier to read. In early December it seemed terribly important that I choose between the two, and I chose the shorter form--only the secondary sources--as less cumbersome.


I believe the fretting was the flowering of seeds planted by Miss Easley, my tenth grade U.S. History teacher. Miss Easley disliked all teenagers. She assured us that leaving a source out of a bibliography was evidence of weak moral fiber and would lead to a life riddled with shame. People would gossip about us in the check-out line at the Kroger. The specter of Miss Easley rose up in my subconscious; select members of my dissertation committee joined her. A few mornings I woke up out of a dream in which I had somehow forgotten to submit my dissertation, and all these years later that oversight had come to light with uncertain but dire consequences. Sending the book off was a lot.


My mother tells a story about how, after she dropped me off at college, a friend asked how she felt. She said, like she hoped she had taught me everything I needed to know. Uploading all of the parts of my book on this coast for my editor to download on the other coast brought that to mind. I had done what I could for the story, made what I could of it, and now it would have to go out into the world on its own. There was not a point when I finished. There was a moment when I stopped.


I can still hear my characters talking. It's like they are sitting together, the big group at the back of the restaurant, and I am at a table in the front. I can almost but not quite follow the conversation. I catch a noun every few sentences; sometimes they laugh too loud and the bartender throws them a look. For the first week or two after I met my deadline I missed the characters dreadfully. It was not unlike taking our children to college, or helping them move into a new place, away from us: we were glad they were were they wanted to be, and we missed hearing them move around the house. I am glad the book is off of my desk, and I miss the thinking and writing. I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Later this spring I'll have galleys to review. I'll have to compile an index, which may resurrect poor Miss Easley once again. But eventually, when the days are long and warm, there will be a box with books in it.


I'll look in here from time to time to let you know where you can order The Case of the Disappearing Gauguin. I'll keep you updated on what else is happening in the world of Flowers and Fruit: conservators are working with it now and uncovering new evidence, and at the end of the month I'll begin work on an exhibition. The painting has more to say.


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