Monday, December 26, 2011

Don't Blink, There Goes the Year!

By Laura Spinella

Given the post-holiday, pre-New Year date, not to mention the one-year anniversary of my debut novel, it seems a foregone conclusion that I write a retrospective blog. I saw a really good year-in-review on the Christmas Day CBS Morning Show. Of course, that one was dedicated to well-known personalities who’d passed, the montage segueing beautifully from Elizabeth Taylor to Steve Jobs to the guy who invented the teleprompter—sometimes, it’s the invention we recall, not the inventor. Thankfully, sadly, the major loss at my house was the cat. While I’d tear up over a photo-filled post devoted to Ted’s memory, I assumed you might not feel the same. Aside from the dead, the other thing we regale over this time of year is lists: Best Of, Biggest Blunders, Most Popular, 2011 Trends. So in keeping with our GBC writing theme, and sparing you my personal life’s little inventory list, I chose to focus on a Top Ten Retrospect for the Newly Published, aka, As the Debut Light Dims.

1) Authors are accessible. Some of the smartest people I’ve met this year are writers working to become published authors. While waiting to get their ticket punched, or book bound, they’ve made great contacts and friends with published authors. From what I can gather, it puts them miles ahead of the curve. I’m impressed by their networking and appalled by my own lack of foresight.

2) Not everybody is going to love your book—soon-to-be-authors, take note! There’s no avoiding it or the sting. Suck it up. And the sting is equal whether it’s a place like Publishers Weekly or a live-wire on Goodreads. I believe the ego-annihilating phrase was, “Just halfway through and it is nauseating…” Well, if you felt compelled to post that, and my book made you physically ill, I guess we’re even (-;

3) Signings are fun, but they come with a level of tension that’s difficult to corral—at least this was the case for me. Note to self: gray long-sleeved blouse, pretty as it is, will show pit stains every time. I know; I have the pictures to prove it.

4) Promotion can be all consuming. Our very own Maria Geraci gave me some of the best advice early on: Figure out what you’re comfortable doing and do that. Every time I find myself overwhelmed, I check in with those words of wisdom.

5) In the same vein, find the dividing line between what you wrote and what you’ve yet to write. Promoting a book and writing one are polar opposites. One requires you to be a social butterfly. The other is a cocoon. You have to figure out how to transition fluidly from one to the other.

6) If your book happens to get nominated for a nice award, go to the party. This is my big book blunder from 2011. I gave myself the, “It’s a thrill to be nominated,” speech and stayed home. In retrospect, it would have been really cool to have accepted the invite and the award personally.

7) Book clubs are God’s gift to writers. Again, this goes to my last-off-the-turnip-truck naiveté, but what an unexpected bonus! Where else can you make eight to ten instant friends by showing up? And even if they don’t love your book, they will congratulate you on the achievement of being published. Well, except for that one woman. I’m still considering having her comment tattooed to my ass. About Flynn, my protagonist: “He was just so… so dirty.” Silly me. I thought it was part of his charm.

8) “So, how much of your book is autobiographical?” Say what? For a lot of reasons, this question bothered me a great deal. I should have had the sense to let it go early on and just be glad they were reading.

9) Regarding BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the college-age boys who emailed me: Glad you enjoyed it… So happy you learned something… These things take practice… And it’s probably best we’re not Facebook friends.

Me writing...

10) And my number one newly published author conclusion: I am happiest writing a book. It gives me a sense of self, peace, if you will, that tends to escape me in everyday life. Honestly? I’d probably be happier writing in the name of self-satisfaction. But for some reason, that mindset never seems to be the proper path. I am muddling my way through the rest, making it up as I go. And, well, there you have it, life imitating art. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and my best to you all in the New Year.


  1. What a great journey! Glad you're taking the time to reflect, enjoy, learn, and keep writing!! Looking forward to so much more from you!

  2. Beautiful Disaster is and continues to be one of my favorite books. I enjoy reading your blogs! It's nice to actually be able to interact with your favorite authors. I absolutely can not wait until your next book! Keep em coming! I'll be first in line to buy! Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  3. There's lots of wisdom in this post, Laura. Loved the social butterfly/cocoon contrast--so true!

  4. Great post. I love number 2. I could always tell which book club members didn't like the book. Sorry about Ted!

  5. Thanks, Melisa... Thank you, Paula! Your comment has me racing to finish up revisions on book #2! Sara, IDK wisdom, but occasionally I get things without being hit directly over the head(-; Karin, thank you for the condolences. He was a mega-cat!

  6. I'm sorry about Ted too! (love the name) Sounds like an exhausting but exhilarating year--here's to many more!

  7. Pam, Franklin, Casual Book GroupDecember 27, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    Love the idea of writing what I know and understanding that lots of people won't agree with my characterizations. You inspire me to get my thoughts down on paper. Happy Holidays to you and your family, surely Ted was missed but not forgotten, We lost our pup Waggles this year but his spirit remains in our hearts.

  8. As one of the writers 'still waiting to have my ticket stamped', I so appreciate the wisdoms I've learned from all the Girlfriends this year. Laura, BEAUTIFUL DISASTERS is a wonderful book and I know you are destined for many more great things. BTW, I LOVED the picture of you writing! :)Thanks for sharing your journey!

  9. I enjoyed this post, especially since I consider myself in the same freshman class of debut writers (my book came out two months after yours)and I have learned many of the same lessons. So true about the butterfly and cocoon.

  10. Laura, you are wise beyond your debut! I'm so happy to have gotten to know you this past year. You're one of the folks who keeps me sane. ;-) Here's to an amazing 2012 full of wonderful surprises (and, hopefully, your second book!).


  11. Great analogy in #5 about butterfly vs. cocoon. Explains why I sometimes find myself needing to tear off my own wings!

    I'm looking forward to reading your book, and I so appreciated this post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Your #9 had me laughing aloud, Laura!! Thanks for sharing your wisdom from the year and here's wishing you a wonderful 2012!

  13. #9 is a hoot - great stuff, Laura! And I agree with Susan - you are wise beyond your debut!

  14. Thanks so much for all the kind comments! We'll see what 2012 has up her sleeve (and you know she never has pit stains!)... Wishing you all wonderful things in the coming year!