Once upon a time I had a good friend, since passed, who was a writer. Avon actually published a number of fine non-fiction books along with his wife who was a professional photographer. They lived in rural North Brookfield, Massachusetts, the setting for another book of mine, Emily Upham’s Revenge.
Now the truth is, as a writer, Avon talked his craft very well, with wonderful wit. Indeed, he was a wonderful storyteller, with many a good tale to tell. That said, he was a very, very, very slow writer.
Years ago, I went to visit him and spent a week with him and his wife. Even back in those days I was always writing something. Indeed, while I was visiting, I took the time to put in my daily stint. Avon, however, did not write one word.
“Avon,” I said, “I’m going to write a book that exposes you for the slow-poke you are.”
That was the origin of a book originally titled Snail Tale. It features a hyperactive ant named Edward and a snail by the name of Avon, who does things very, very, very slowly. It concerns their mock-epic adventures along one branch.
The legendary editor Fabio Cohen took the book.
“Does it need any more work?” I asked.
His answer was perhaps one of the most astonishing I ever received from an editor. “It needs,” he said, “about eight adjectives.”
The book was published very modestly. Years later, another editor (from a different publishing house) read it, liked it, and wanted to republish it. She did suggest more revisions. Done. It was reissued with vastly superior illustration and a new title: The End of the Beginning.
For some of my readers this version of the book remains their favorite of my writing.
Moral: Sometimes writing a good book takes a very, very, very long time.