BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, my first novel, is set to debut right along with the New Year. Even with finished copies set to arrive, it’s as surreal as a winning lottery ticket. I keep checking the numbers; I think I’m good. We’re past the point of a befuddled call from Berkley saying, “Sorry, wrong writer. Spillane, Spinelli… Spinella, they all sound alike.” I doubt my angst is different from thousands of other writers who look forward to 2011 debuts. It’s one reason I wanted to be part of this group, Girlfriends Book Club. Along with the anticipation and anxiety of publication, I feel oddly isolated. It didn’t seem to matter so much when it was just me, Mia, and Flynn muddling our way through rewrite number four. While their story is a twelve year journey—from a college campus in Athens, Georgia, through a grueling separation, to a hard fought ending—the writing time was exactly half that and no less challenging. I was fine with the process; I used rejection as a catalyst. I was slaphappy silly when Writers House took me on, and relieved when the book sold—I’d gotten the monkey off my back.
Well, say goodbye to the monkey and welcome to the zoo. And, ohmigosh, while there’s so much to see, it’s the learning curve of salesmanship that has me staring stark-eyed through the bars. A writer with the sales finesse of Willy Loman has been catapulted into Billy Mays territory—and the competition is fierce. I don’t know a lot of novelists, not personally. But I watch them. I’m awed by the ones who can make literary connections with the ease of chatting up moms on the playground. They’re adept at capitalizing on social networks, dropping pithy comments on Twitter, and using Linkedin to create a cyber-empire of devoted readers and writers. For me, book writing has been a hindrance to those outlets, resulting in what, by the definition of any good analyst, amounts to a social disorder. Of course, I’ll soldier on, getting the hang of things, because like rewrites and revisions, promotion is a necessary tool of the trade.
This final phase of publication was easy to spot, like the passing of a torch. About a month ago, notes from my editor began to dwindle while emails from my shiny new publicist picked up pace. I like to think of her as shiny, sparkly with a wand that will make this all turn out okay. However, no matter what happens, it’s Anne Lamott’s words I’ll take to the finish line: “Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems. Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.” Amen, Anne Lamott. I’ve already had a glimpse of the extremes, one not so pretty review and a request to take a look at the book for movie rights, all within the same hour. Go figure. The everyday people around me are supportive and excited—confused as to why it takes so damn long. Prudently, I’ve corralled expectations, finding satisfaction in the last link. It connects, Flynn, a character who channeled through me like an electric current, to a story that, I believe, is worthy of him, transposing imagination into typeset ink and beautiful cover art. Less idyllic, these last steps have me scrambling for old newspaper colleagues and alumni contacts, wondering if I’m doing everything I can or just doing it all wrong. Either way, I’m ready for this thing to which I have been taskmaster and champion to pitch in and do its part. I’m ready for BEAUTIFUL DISASTER to speak for itself.
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