When It’s Real

So that was a thing that happened.
So that was a thing that happened.

These days I feel like a lot like the Velveteen Rabbit.

Or the opposite of the Velveteen Rabbit. I’m not sure.

So, back in January I sold a book. Then in February I signed a contract. And in March I received my first editorial letter. All these are milestones in a writer’s career and yet here I am, still waiting for the moment it begins to feel “real.”

Oh yeah, there’s this thing where I sold a book.

The words are still hard to get out, both from my lips and from my fingertips. Oh yeah, I sold a book a few months ago, didn’t I Instagram/text you/tweet/post on Facebook/blog about it? I dutifully blasted the news across social media, and then promptly forgot about it. Well, telling people about it, not the fact that I, you know, sold a book.

To say that I’ve been blasé about the whole process couldn’t be further from the truth, but I’ve been waiting for that overwhelming tidal wave of emotion to crash over me ever since my agent called me as I was driving to the airport to fly home to California for Christmas. What emotion? I can’t say. Joy? Excitement? Elation? Relief? When will my heart finally catch up to my brain, to the knowledge that I will be someday soon be a Published Authorâ„¢?

I guess I’m just waiting for my Inner Middle Schoolgirl to pump her fist and scream VALIDATION!, before taking a deep drag of her cigarette, dropping the butt and crushing it beneath her Doc Martens, 90s riot grrl style. But it’s been three months and my Inner Middle Schoolgirl been remarkably silent, considering how loud she had been during the submission process.1

When will my Inner Middle Schoolgirl finally have her say? Will it be when my editor accepts my manuscript and transmits it to production? When I get my first pass pages and see my words laid out on the page like a book for the first time? When I see a cover? When I actually hold the physical object in my hands, the sharp tang of paper, pulp, and glue still clinging to its pages? Or will she forever remain silent, now that she’s finally found the validation she so desperately craved?

Except selling a book doesn’t feel like validation, or at least not the validation I craved when I was in the midst of the Submission Swamp. (I’ll blog about this soon, I promise.) I watch other people around me get excited on my behalf and try and rearrange my features to show the appropriate response. Yay! Thank you! …I think? Perhaps it’s because I worked in acquisitions. Perhaps it’s because I know too much about how publishing hot dog is made. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the sort of writer who bleeds onto the page. Or perhaps it’s because I’m an soulless automaton with no concept of human emotions. (After all, I do hate FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS.)

So there’s no real way to talk about having sold a book without coming across as an overweening narcissist, especially when you’re not bowled over by the typical feelings of gratitude and befuddled amazement considered appropriate for a debut female writer. I wrote a thing. I liked it. I thought it was worth publishing. Happily, other people agreed.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no possible way I could convey in a blog post or in an email or in a phone conversation just what writing The Goblin King was like, or what it meant to me. Of all the things I’ve written, it was the only one that came in a flood, in a torrent, in a rush. I wrote the first draft in 59 days. It was easy, even as I wailed and bemoaned to my writing friends that I didn’t know how to end it, or how to fix the mythology, or what the fuck I was doing. I wrote a thing. It emerged fully formed from my head, like Athena from the skull of Zeus.2 I wrote a thing, and it contained every weird gothic, fantastic, whimsical, fannish thing I’ve loved since I was a little girl. I wrote a thing, and I loved it, because it was honest, because it was true.

How do you talk about that? You can’t, not really. Instead you smile and try and be gracious when people congratulate you, when your friend says you should blog about your book deal, when people ask you about writing and publishing. It means you redesign your website over and over again, trying to reach that Platonic Ideal of Clean and Minimalistic with Hand Drawn Elements through lines of code, instead of blogging about anything substantive.3 It means you practice saying the words, waiting for the day it no longer sounds like a lie:

I have sold a book.

  1. And boy, was she loud. My Inner Middle Schoolgirl likes to think she’s a riot grrl, but she’s really more like Tsukino Usagi from Sailor Moon: a whiny crybaby who likes to eat and nap. Also, I went to middle school during the late 90s, okay?
  2. But my Athena still needs to grow up, of course. That’s what editorial letters are for.
  3. I had all these grand plans to blog more frequently, to review TV shows I watch, to be as transparent as I could about the publishing process, but let’s be honest; the next time you see a blog post from me will probably be in another eight months.

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