It’s been a little more than three weeks since my novel, Our Little World, launched, and so it feels like a perfect moment to reflect on it all. I’m not done with events yet—in fact, I have a reading this evening, at a Boston social club—but the overall pace of things is slowing a bit. Spreading out. A podcast here, a book club Zoom there. A reading at my MFA alma matter in July. A couple of book festivals in the fall.
“Are you having fun?” my father-in-law always asks me, but I know that’s not what he is really asking. Rather, he’s reminding me to enjoy the moment, to make the conscious effort to have fun. It’s a good reminder. This experience is all so brand-new—I’m brand-new. I’m a debut author, which means I’m the new girl at school, standing on the periphery, worrying if I’m saying the right things, if my outfit is right, if I will fit in. Will my novel be accepted? Did I make some sort of faux pas—a grave error readers will be only too happy to point out?
Am I ready for the bathroom graffiti I’ll inevitably see when checking Goodreads? I’m the new girl, which means I’m full of self-doubt.
The answer to my father-in-law is: Yes. Yes, I’ve been having fun. I’m living my dream—the dream. Walking into a book store and seeing my book—my book!— for sale, sitting alongside authors’ novels whose names I’ve been uttering for years, is indescribable. But that’s not to say that each book event doesn’t evoke some anxiety. As I set up my designated reading/signing area, producing shiny pens and other book swag, I often feel like a charlatan. I wonder if the book store will be able to sell all the copies they have of my book, whether I am doing them a disservice by signing remaining stock (can those be returned to the publisher, if unsold?).
After every reading and interview, I mentally run through the things I didn’t say but should have, and the things I could have said better.
But just like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you get. So, three weeks in, I’m able to smooth out the tremor in my voice more quickly, and I know what to say when I need a moment to ponder my response (“That’s a good question” is one of the choice phrases I’ll toss out).
My husband also tells me I’ve perfected the politician answer, where I reply with what I want instead of what’s being asked. (If so, it’s unintentional; we writers have wandering minds!)
Mostly, though, I’ve learned to live more in the moment, and so after each event, I perform a quick self-critique, and then I let it go. I go to sleep and reset the following day, reminding myself that I’m doing the best I can—and that’s all I can. I practice self-preservation, not listening to my podcasts or watching my taped interviews. I sign stock proudly—or at least less timidly. I’ve stopped checking social media as often or as randomly, instead dedicating pockets of time to do so. Gaining back control so that this experience doesn’t define—or mentally deflate—me. Most importantly, I’ve dove headfirst into the next book I’m writing (tried and true advice from other writers). Escaping into the new fictional world I’m creating allows me to recall my love of writing, why it is that I do this: It’s a magical process.
I’ve also come to terms with the Goodreads bathroom wall graffiti. I reckon, after all, that it’s perfectly positioned.