The shape of a book

I just finished reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston.

Exit is a short book with a fresh and thought-provoking take on surviving rape. Her heroine Hermione Winters (named for Harry’s friend or possibly out of Greek mythology) is the golden girl, captain of the cheerleading squad, with a popular boyfriend. When Hermione is slipped a roofie on the last night of cheer camp, raped, and left in the lake, her life changes. She’s going to become “that girl.” Or will she?

Hermione’s search for herself while remembering nothing of what happened that night is wrenching and uplifting, in a stout and wry voice that we wish had belonged to us as teens.

Not only was it an excellent read, Johnston’s acknowledgements had a phrase that really made me think.

She thanks her friends and colleagues for helping her turn a “book shaped idea into a book.”

Think about that for a moment – a “book shaped idea.”

When does a story become a book?

Is it when it’s published – with cover art and an ISBN? That would be simplest.

Is it when it’s a complete manuscript, proof-read and copyedited, just waiting to be published? After all, nothing is really going to change at that point.

Is it when a first draft has been critiqued and polished and revised into a submission for agents and editors? A manuscript is more than a story.

Or is it when a vignette or a scene or two have become a full draft,  with a beginning, middle, and end?

I love Johnston’s concept of a book shaped idea. I love thinking of her original thoughts, her story, morphing and changing into the book I held in my hands, allowing me the pleasure of reading it.






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