It’s been about four months since I last reported on the Al Jarreau biography project. I’m happy to say that things have gone just about as had been planned.
Last week a milestone in the process was passed. As expected, the heavy lifting of the process happened over the past six weeks or so. My editor Liz Wycoff had gone through her “big edits” of the completed document, and she passed them along to me, in several large chunks. It was my task to respond to her hundreds of questions about and suggestions for the document. It can be pretty humbling to see your work taken apart in this manner (I thought of my students getting my comments on their big papers), but fortunately, I was ready for this, having worked with Liz on Wisconsin Riffs several years ago. She is smart and insightful, a little demanding (in a good way), curious and always keeps the ultimate goal in mind. The long-range thinking involved in this project — the telling of one story from the beginning to the end of the book, rather than telling many shorter stories as in Wisconsin Riffs — required a considerably different kind of focus and concentration on my part.
There was a great deal of work involved during this last stretch; several hours a day for some weeks. Once I had sent back my responses, answers to questions and rewrites, Liz went through the whole thing again. When I returned from a trip out of town just over a week ago, I had to go through the changes, answer yet another flurry of questions, and rewrite yet a few more short passages — in just three days. That required many hours a day. I returned the latest document to Liz, and she had two days to clean it all up and send it to the copy editor.
Mission accomplished! This doesn’t mean that we’re done, by a long shot. Certainly there will still be small changes that need to be made. And now we (and I, especially) will be focusing on the numerous photographs and other images that will appear in the book. And the cover. And the “blurbs” for the back of the book. And so forth.
I’m sorry to say that the book will not be available to the public until about a year from now. But that’s just the way it goes.
The process goes on. I believe that an important story — the Al Jarreau story — is being told, and feel good that it will presented in a respectful and, as best as we can, an accurate way. I qualify the accuracy because for a very public figure like Al Jarreau, who was, nonetheless, a private man, the story can be told many ways, from differing viewpoints. We’re doing our best.
Thanks to so many of you for your messages of support as we work through it all.
Sadly, Al’s younger brother Marshall, who made significant contributions to the book, died last week. This unhappy event made it even more clear how important it is to get this book in print, for Al’s friends, family and fans, all over the world.
More reports will follow.