Tis the end of an era and a little sad. You work for years and years on your book and it all leads to a big moment, a capstone to years of toil, mailing the manuscript to New York. Thia is where the publishers and agents wait for your book. It is where everything has been headed ever since you decided to write a novel or a short story and you saw this moment a thousand times. You stood in line with all the other people with their parcels and letters and then you met the man who took your eight half by eleven box, parcel, flat. You handed it to him and sent it first class, second day delivery, Priority Mail. He handed you back a receipt, a tracking number, a token. And it was done.
It may have been a Fed Ex box in the middle of nowhere. Many times it was late at night. I literally didn't finish printing off a my manuscript until the last minute for an agent I promised would have it the next day. It seemed the urgency of that moment could not be denied. The last pickup was nine o'clock and I just had to make it and I jumped in the car in my sweats after drinking coffee all day, tearing off the FED EX stickers and jumping out into the snowy, rainy, warm, cold, freezing night....running to that box and stopping just for a moment, just for a moment before the manuscript plunked down onto all those other boxes of destiny.
But all that is no more. Now you just upload your manuscript. Done. All that labor takes thirty seconds to shoot into cyberspace where your editor or your agent reads it on his Kindle or his computer. And your only testament to years of toil is the computer blinking back your email was sent. It is not the same. That physical manuscript represented creating something out of nothing. It represented the daring of a writer to believe they really could complete something that might make a difference.
So those trips to the old WPA post office in my town are over. The echoing voices in the marble lobby no longer represent the end of a journey. That man with his manuscript is no longer there, eyes clearly focused on the future, holding his very soul tightly, trusting it will land in New York. There will be no echo of all those writers who mailed off their raison-detre to an uncaring world. It has been replaced in the soulless blink of a nanosecond.
William Hazelgrove's latest novel is Rocket Man.