Arnon Z. Shorr
Writing While I Wait...
Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Although I've spent a long time in the moviemaking world, "José and the Pirate Captain Toledano" is my first book. Movies take a long time to pull together... and as it turns out, books do, too! Especially a graphic novel such as this one.
Artist Joshua Edelglass has been working tirelessly on the art for many months, penciling, inking and painting entirely on his own. He's almost done with the whole book, which got me to reflect on the journey so far.
Josh and I landed our book deal with Kar-Ben Publishing early in 2020, just as the COVID pandemic was about to crash down upon us. As the book's author, I faced the first hurdle - to write the book!
With the kids locked down at home (including the baby, who was only a few months old) and with my wife still working (doctors are considered essential workers during a global health crisis), I had very little time to actually write. I got most of it done during very early mornings (before the kids woke up). On days when my wife was home and could take over the childcare, I did marathon writing sessions in our bedroom closet - the only place the noise of the house wouldn't penetrate.
By early April, I had completed the first draft of the book.
I remember printing it out - a thicker document than any I had ever produced - and feeling its very real weight in my hands. After getting Josh's notes, I submitted the draft to the publisher, anxious about what feedback they might have.
It was a very long time (or, it seemed like a very long time) before we got a response. I got more anxious. Did they hate it? Are they marking it up? Are they going to send it back with pages and pages of red ink?
My book agent, Anna Olswanger, reminded me that I'm not in Kansas anymore - the book world doesn't operate at the Hollywood pace I'm used to. Things take their time.
So, I waited, and eventually, the notes came. And there were... pretty much none! They loved it!
And that's it for me. I had very little more to do from that point on. Josh, on the other hand... his hands got very, very full.
Penciling - which includes laying out how the images flow on the page - was the first big step. Josh worked for weeks, sending me pages as he went. I'd give him notes here and there, but most of the experience, for me, involved the joy of seeing my words come to life as images for the first time.
When the penciling was done, Josh submitted the pages to the publisher for their notes. Once again, we waited... and when the notes came back, they were (again!) very sparse. We're so lucky!
Josh then inked all the pages - again, sending me the works in progress as he went. Once the inking was done, we discussed colors, and Josh dove into the painting process.
Every page of this book, you must understand, is painted by hand. I don't know how Josh's fingers haven't fallen off by now! It's a painstaking, laborious process... and it's done! Josh finished painting just yesterday!
There's still one more step to complete: To finish the pages, Josh scans the artwork into a computer, and uses software to layer the deep black lines from his inked pages on top of the paint. It's a method of creating vivid painted pages without losing the crispness of the ink. Fortunately, Josh has been doing much of this work as he goes, so it won't take much longer before everything is submitted to Kar-Ben for the lettering/typesetting and final layout.
For those of you who've been keeping score, it's been roughly a year and a quarter since I started writing the book! More than a year since I submitted the draft to the publisher! What have I been doing all this time?
Looking back at what felt like a very long year of lockdown, isolation, parenting responsibilities in overdrive... I'm surprised at what I've accomplished. I wrote two original screenplays ("The Golem of Cotopaxi" and "Out of the Sky"), plus two more with a writing partner. I got hired to write an adapted screenplay (first draft's done, working on revisions now) and shortly after that, got hired to re-write another screenplay along with its original writer. Almost done with that draft, too. That's six feature screenplays! Yikes! I overhauled my social media, rebuilt my website, and began the preparations for a big move back to the east coast (I posted about this on Facebook, and will likely explore it further here at some point). It's been a productive year!
Although I'm terribly impatient about it, there's something nice about the slow pace of the publishing world. While the book is on its way, I get to spend time gestating new ideas, creating new content, and generally coming up with lots of answers to "what's next?" I've never had that luxury as a filmmaker (especially as an indie filmmaker, where I wear multiple hats). On my films, I've typically worked right up through the festival run, and only once that petered out did I have time to come up for air and wonder what the next project would be. Maybe Hollywood could take a note from the publishing world? Slowness might be a good thing!
And even now, with the art nearly finished, we're still quite a long way out from the book's publication date. Put March 1, 2022 in your calendars - that's when "José and the Pirate Captain Toledano" is due to hit bookstores. Until then, I'll keep writing. We'll see how many more screenplays I churn out (or maybe I'll write another book? Or maybe I'll find my way back into the director's chair?) Whatever I come up with, I'll keep you posted here!