Embarrassing true confession: I’m superstitious.
I don’t subscribe to the standard superstitions. Black cats don’t faze me. I’ve been known to walk under ladders. I can’t remember the last time I broke a mirror, but the fear of breaking one doesn’t keep me up at night.
However, I have my own good-luck rituals. If I see a swan gliding across the pond near my house during my morning jog, I take this as a sign that my day will go well. If I toss a fork onto the table and it lands on its side, good things will come my way. And if I say the word “pantry,” my new novel, Goodbye to All That, will be well received.
When it comes to publishing, so much of what happens is beyond an author’s control. You can write a brilliant book (or you can certainly try!) but once it reaches your publisher, there’s a limit to how much you can do to assure the book’s success. You can contact the newspapers and your local bookstore; you can hype the book relentlessly on Facebook and Twitter; you can schedule a bunch of blogs around when the book will be issued. Will your best efforts get your book into the hands of readers? Who knows?
Goodbye to All That goes on sale this month. I asked my girlfriends here at Girlfriends Book Club to schedule me for a March blog so I could spread the word about my book...and wouldn’t you know, my publisher is still tweaking the cover, so I can’t illustrate this blog with that cover. File under: Beyond An Author’s Control.
But I can say “pantry.”
As I mentioned, I’m a jogger. I don’t listen to music when I jog, because I run on winding country roads and I need to listen for oncoming cars. But I sing inside my head when I jog. I’ve got a whole mental catalog of songs that have energizing melodies, bouncy rhythms and inspiring lyrics. Many of the songs have titles appropriate to running: “Born to Run,” “Running on Empty,” “Take it Easy.” Some have words that work: “Friend of the Devil,” about a person who sets out running but takes his time, or “Don’t Think Twice,” about a person heading down a long, lonesome road. If I’m jogging in the rain, I’ll sing “Walking in Memphis” in my mind, with its stanza about the singer’s plane touching down in the middle of the pouring rain.
One of my favorite jogging songs is “Mrs. Robinson,” by Simon and Garfunkel, because its tune and tempo keep my feet pumping. It contains a line about hiding a secret where no one ever goes—in the pantry.
Goodbye to All That includes a scene in which the son of the book’s main character learns about a drastic decision his mother has just made. With his wife and daughters chattering away in the kitchen, he carries the cordless phone into the pantry to have some privacy while he discusses the situation with his sister. He realizes that no one ever uses the pantry. It’s filled with fancy dishes he doesn’t recognize and expensive appliances his wife never uses. It’s a place where a secret could be hidden.
So, to bring good luck to my new novel, I decided, purely arbitrarily, to speak the word “pantry” aloud whenever I sing “Mrs. Robinson” in my head during a jog. Just the word “pantry.” No other lyric. Why? Because I’m superstitious. And because speaking the word “pantry” is something I can control.
Will it bring good fortune to Goodbye to All That? So far, the book has been blessed. My editor loves it. The early blurbs from readers are better than I could have dreamed. And someday soon, I’m sure this book will have a splendid cover—with at least one of those superlative blurbs plastered across the front.
In the meantime, I’ll toss forks and watch for swans and hope that Goodbye to All That makes hordes of readers happy. And I’ll smile and wave at the people staring at that strange jogger who, every now and then, blurts out the word “pantry” as she runs by.
Judith Arnold' is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 85 novels. Her newest novel, Goodbye to All That, will be available in late March. Feel free to visit her website: www.juditharnold.com.