COLLABORATION: FROM MICROSCOPES TO MANUSCRIPTS
For the last sixteen years I’ve worked at a company that sells laboratory equipment, including microscopes. This week, our office has been abuzz with discussion about a recently released TED Talk by a Stanford University professor revealing that he and some of his students have designed an origami-style microscope.
I understand how microscopes work–the intricate array of lenses stacked just so to produce the desired magnification and color correction. The idea that a functioning microscope can be made for fifty cents by embedding optics in foldable paper is stunning. Revolutionary. Exciting. Though I doubt these clever devices will replace traditional microscopes in hospitals and laboratories, they may well become the standard for diagnosis in remote and underserved areas. They could be great news for world health. They could save a lot of lives.
I admit, though, that my first thought when I watched the video wasn’t “yay for world health” but “how do people come up with these ideas?” As a writer, I understand thinking creatively. And certainly that’s a given in the case of these students, who saw a need and sought an innovative solution. But, in my opinion, there’s more than just creativity going on here. There’s undoubtedly a strong spirit of collaboration, of people working together to deliver something more than any one of them could have done by himself or herself.
The concept of collaboration brought me around to thinking about my recently released first novel, Something Yellow. I was shocked to discover just how many people it takes to get a manuscript ready for publication. When I see my finished novel with its lovely (I think) cover, my mind immediately travels to all the people who helped get it there—it was truly a group effort.
Before I was published, I had a vision in my head of the “Writer.” She sat in a room all day in front of her keyboard and wrote until she typed “The End.” Then, she packed off the pages to her agent in New York, dusted off her hands, and went on to the next book. Boy, was that wrong… at least for me!
I wrote Something Yellow in about nine months. I thought it was done. Until I began sending it out to contests, where it drew comments and suggestions. (And, eventually, won first place in one of them.) I rewrote. I entered it in workshops, submitted it to critique partners, let agents at conferences take a look, and queried agents. I got more feedback, which I used to rewrite. Finally, the manuscript sold, and I arrived (I naively thought) at the dusting-off-the-hands stage. Only to hear, “Edits!” So I listened to my wonderful editor, rewrote some more, and worked with one of my cousins to fact check geographic details. And I reveled in how much better the book was becoming—not because of me but because of the other talented people who were working with me and guiding me.
Finally, an artist designed the cover and even more people proofread the manuscript. It was done. And though the end result isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as an origami microscope, it is—as I now realize every book must be—the product of an array of dedicated, talented people working together to create something new, something that hopefully touches others in a small (I was tempted to say “microscopic”) way.
As the cover promises, spring arrives—both metaphorically and literally—in Something Yellow, where romance, suspense, and mystery are set against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I hope you enjoy the product of my collaborative efforts!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Templeton lives near Athens, Georgia, with her husband, son, and a menagerie of animals. In her day job she serves as Vice President of Operations for a laboratory equipment manufacturer. When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, gardening, learning to figure skate, and taking long walks on the quiet country roads near her home. You can visit Laura on-line at www.laura-templeton.com or e-mail her at lauratempletonwriter@gmail.