Monday, April 16, 2012

The Author to Her Book by Hank Phillippi Ryan

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: The time is almost here. My new book is coming out, in a few months, and there's nothing more I can do. I love it, in fact  I'm thrilled with  it. But it is what it is. Sometimes, I pick up the (very gorgeous) advance reading copy--here's a confession for you--and open to a random page, and just start to read. Simply to see if, say, some reader chose it in a library or bookstore, and just flipped to a page and started reading, would they like it? Would they want to buy it or check it out?

This is, of course, absurd.  (Ah, Isn't it? Trying to pretend I'm "not-me" to test how a random stranger might react?) 

Now, soon, people will be getting copies of it. And reading it . And I love the book, I do, but there's always the moment when you send the baby out into the world and say--fly! fly! fly! Okay, I'm madly mixing metaphors, but you know what I mean. It's terrifying--and so exciting.

The other thing about being a writer is that we alwyas feel--it's only me. Just me. I'm here by myself, loving this but worrying, and no one else can understand. And then, a dear pal sent me this poem.

Written in 1650 or so! To me, it comes from love and pride and the bond a writer feels to her work--and a sweet affection for her "offspring." Anne Bradstreet was born in 1612. And emigrated to Massachsetts in 1630.  We certainly share the frustrations of editing...don't you love when she  rubs off a spot--only to find another flaw? It's fascinating to think about her--almost 400 years ago!--having some of the same feelings we all do now.

Apparently some of her acquaintances took her poems, and had them published against her wishes. And tht proably wouldn't happen today!And I don't agree with all of her emotions, of you? But I do love the sisterhood and the common ground. And the idea that though many things change--can you imagine Anne Bradstreet seeing her poetry in an e-book?--so many things for writers are universal and constant, transcending time. 
She might even have become a "Girlfriend," right?
The Author to Her Book
Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.  

HANK: How do you feel at those turning point moments for your book? How do you handle the nerves? I say to myself--this is what I dreamed of! So now--enjoy it. 

(THE OTHER WOMAN is the lead title for Forge Books' fall catalogue...Lisa Scottoline says "Riveting!"
find out more at )


  1. Hank
    Thank you for this post! Having just put Can't Buy Me Love into the world I can understand those feelings--it's gone--it's out there--you hope it finds a home (and love) with readers. I always feel a little exposed when one of my books first enters the world--as if people can actually see inside my brain (little weird huh).
    Good Luck with the release!!

  2. Yes, exactly,'s very different to think about a real person opening the covers and seeing what's inside. Will you connect? How will people react?

    Some people talk about the book's life not really becoming fulfilled until it's read---hmm

  3. Hank, great post. I do understand the baby-into-the-world metaphor. It's a fabulous moment if/when years down the line, you pick up a book you wrote/look at the best line in your book and think, "Huh. I can't believe that came out of me?"

  4. Terrific post, Hank, and yes...400 years later and, still, writers feel much the same way about our work. Thanks for sharing this! BTW, I'm really looking forward to The Other Woman :).

  5. Terrifying. In fact, I feel more verklempt with each book because I think readers are more forgiving of one's debut novel than all those that follow it.

    I don't read my books after they're published; I'm too afraid I'll see something I wrote or the editor missed, and I'll want to vomit profusely. Guess I didn't need to be that honest...

    And you're so right...why should I feel tortured about seeing my dream become a reality?

  6. Such a great post! Wishing you the best of luck with your latest baby!!