There are only a few days in life, speaking relatively, when one places a book for publication, no matter how prolific one might be. Also there are the long winters to consider. There is a December in which one’s whole family succumbs to the pandemic after having avoided it for a long series of severe months. And there is age, retirement, which, if one is honest, was easy to underestimate, especially in a year in which the world was reeling from sickness, change, realization of past sins and disasters, and one’s own life, one’s own head space, felt unimportant unless it was contemplating the great problems of all mankind. This is all sounding very British. It was a hard year in life, in other words, and a long time since I had felt like a writer, other than through sheer force of will. The daily act of setting words in a line, line after line. This is necessary, of course, because there are periods when a person must persevere through force of will alone. But, being older now, and no longer having the fact of teaching to give my life a shape and to reinforce my idea of myself as a writer, which was one of the purposes teaching served. There is no finish to that sentence that feels necessary. Being older now, that’s the point. Other factors that I won’t go into except to say that publishers are fickle by their nature and publishing undergoes one revolution after another and this was a year when anyone could smell the fear in publishing at large. A lot of good things happened. Some better justice was understood. The fact of racism came to the fore in ways that, let’s face it, were entirely foreseeable and right and everything shook itself into new alignments and such. At times of revolution it is reasonable to fear you might the be one who falls by the wayside. (And those other factors now that I won’t go into, but be mindful, there are those.) The books you have written, the sweat and blood of it, hearing that they are not the thing anymore, that they are out of another era, that time has passed you by. Then dawns that morning. That it comes so close to Christmas is the best gift. Answered prayer. Someone rings, you hear the sound of it and know you ought to answer, and there is that dear voice of your agent that has given you bad news often enough these past years. But this time there is the sweetness of yes. The new editor has loved what I did. I have survived to publish another book. Never mind about the details right now. All that despair of old age and irrelevance flows out of the head. This book that I have loved for such a long time will be a physical thing. The winter suddenly becomes more friendly. After all, my family has faced the pandemic and survived, and there’s Christmas almost here. I am still working. So the doubt can step away from me for a while. And I publish a book again.