I finished the copy edits on The Fault Tree this week and was ready to send it back to my publisher … but wait … there was one more small item to be done. And it’s not an easy task. The Acknowledgments page.
I stink at writing the Acknowledgments.
First of all, this book has had more incarnations than Vishnu, and I know I’m going to forget someone who helped along the way. Someone important. Like my editor. Or my first reader. Or the character I based the protagonist on.
Oh, sure, I made notes to myself as I worked. “Don’t forget Robbie!” Huh? By the time it came to assemble that thank you list on the Acknowledgments page, I had no memory of ever meeting or knowing someone named Robbie.
I could take the easy way out, and thank everybody I’d ever met. Just copy my whole email address book right onto the page. That would do it. But what about that guy in the bar who told the funny story that got me to thinking about …? Or the maiden aunt who praised my early attempts to write fairy tales? See? I told you I’d forget someone.
Spouses or Significant Others have a special place on the page, for their undying support of the writer. But how hyperbolic or treacly sweet can you get in your thanks before both the spouse and the reader throw up? Does the reader (or even the typesetter, for that matter) really need to know that I haven’t cooked anything but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and haven’t done laundry for a year while writing this book? That, in all likelihood, my spouse’s cell phone number will be featured prominently in the D.C. Madam’s call logs? Maybe I should settle for the more vague “as always” or “my love and thanks for everything.”
And then there’s the issue of thanking your expert resources. I want to give them credit. Really I do.They’ve been a tremendous help to me. But if I include their names for teaching me how to poison sun tea, or for getting me all that great information on detonators and explosives, they’re likely to be getting a visit from the feds.
I should know. Just try explaining why your first two Google Earth searches were for up close and personal photos of Camp David and the Crawford ranch. Ruh-roh.
I can tell you who won’t be on the Acknowledgments page but probably should be.
• My tax guy, for making this all possible.
• The lady at the nail salon who has taught me how to say, “Yes, I’m still working on the same book” in Vietnamese.
• The guy who gave me directions to the signing, when I was late and lost in Los Angeles. (Sorry I was so rude. I thought you were a homeless guy looking to wash my windows.)
• My high school guidance counselor who said I’d “do well in retail.” Hell, I thought I’d at least have the choices from the jump rope song. (Tinker, tailor, cowboy, sailor … doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.) Come to think of it, those were supposed to be your potential spouse’s occupations, right?
• My dog Angus, who barks if I get up from the computer before Keith Olbermann comes on.
• Every great writer who put out a book this year. You make me spit-green with envy, but inspire me every day.
Let’s create the Ultimate Acknowledgments Page. What would you most like to include in yours (if your mother and your publisher weren’t looking over your shoulder)? And readers, what outrageous thank you would you most like to see?