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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Chicken Box: writer's milestone and encouragement

head shot of a white baby chicken

The process of writing and editing and correcting and doing it all some more has taken on a life of its own. I sometimes see pages of my manuscript in my dreams – with big ink marks all over them. It can be all consuming.

clipped pile of pages of manuscript with "Chapter One" on the first page
The manuscript

I recently had the whole manuscript printed, formatted like a real book. As I pulled the pages from the box, I felt so accomplished.

While it's still too long, getting to this place is a milestone. Seeing what it looks like with chapter numbers, proper spacing, and those little squiggly things separating scenes feels very real. What will it feel like to see the real book someday?

When I picked the printing up at Staples, the first thing I said was, “It looks like I’m taking home donuts.”

“Actually,” said the clerk, “we call this the ‘chicken box’ because it looks like, well, you know ... what you get takeout in.”

I can’t call it a chicken box. Nothing that takes that much effort and courage could be about chicken. I prefer to think of it as a box of donuts -- a sweet reward for reaching another milestone in the process of writing my first novel – an historical one. Without considering calories, fat grams, or nutritional value, I’d darn sure rather have a box of donuts than bird.

a dozen different size yeast donuts rolled in powdered sugar on a countertop
Homemade yeast donuts from Mom's recipe

My next step is another read, a serious look at how the chapters flow, and then making all of the corrections and deletions. After that, my mentor, Richard, wants to read the whole thing. He’s helped me with many sections, but reading the entire book is big doings. I am a little bit scared about what he will think, say, and suggest I do with it after that!

All along, I’ve been afraid someone would stop me in my tracks, tell me my work was garbage, and I’d be left with years of useless research and drafts. I no longer feel that way. The encouragement I’ve gotten along the way has been positive, reinforcing, and even encouraging.

I’m slowly reading through the pages in my donut box. I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. When it's finished, maybe I’ll get a box of real donuts and share them with those who have been so helpful to me. I might need several boxes. While writing is solitary, community is how writers keep going and how writing comes to life.

Lake Michigan, Door County, Wisconsin -- where I began reading from the donut box.

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