Tuesday, November 14, 2006

10 THINGS THAT HAVE CHANGED SINCE I SOLD MY NOVEL and one that hasn't...

what publication was supposed to bring

A year ago today, something incredible happened to me. Let me set the scene: It was around eleven in the morning, and I was in my study writing when the phone rang. I shambled toward the kitchen, coffee cup in hand, a defiant bunch of characters still carrying on a spirited dialogue in my head. I was still wearing my pajamas.

My first thought? Maybe it was my agent calling to say she'd sold my book! An amazing coincidence maybe? A sign that that I possessed the gift of prophecy? Nope.

Actually, that thought has passed through my mind every time the phone rang for years--even before I had an agent. In fact, I've probably been dreaming about that phone call since I was nine years old and I first started writing stories instead of multiplication problems on my papers during math class.

The only difference was that this time I was right. This time it was my agent. And this time she wasn't calling to say hello, or to suggest a revision or to tell me that we'd gotten a pass. This time she began the conversation with the words, "I have some very exciting news..."

What happened next, I recorded in detail last year. This year I want to talk about the expectations those words carried for me. (The illustration above may give you some idea of my modest hopes.)

While I waited tables and dreamed and scribbled by moonlight, I'd come to believe that if I ever sold a novel, I'd never have another moment of self-doubt, the grouchy old man in the deli would smile when he saw me and toss in an extra quarter pound of smoked turkey, and it would never rain on my birthday. Slowly, in the course of the past year, I've been disabused of nearly all my out-sized expectations.

In actuality life has both changed immensely--and not at all.

Ten Things That have Changed:

1. I eased my way out of my waitress job--with baffling reluctance, I might add.

2. When I told people I was a writer, they didn't do that funny thing with their eyebrows, or sneak each other sidelong glances, like they had in the past.

3. On my tax form, I wrote WRITER all in caps, instead of waitress. I wonder what the IRS thought about the row of exclamation points at the end.

4. I worked more hours than I ever have in my life and I loved every minute of it.

5. I learned that in today's market, the success of any given book depends as much on the writer's efforts as it does on the publisher's.

6. I became an enthusiastic promoter.

7. I threw around strange terms like "my publicist," "my editor," "my galleys," like I'd been doing it all my life.

8. I made some amazing new friends.

9. I went to New York for only the fourth time in my life--and this time I went "on business."

10. I realized that self-doubts, rainy birthdays, and grouchy guys at the deli never go away. And what's more, I wouldn't have it any other way. If life was perfect, what would we write about?

And the one thing that hasn't changed? This morning, around eleven O'clock I was in my study, talking back to a troublesome character, and sucking on a cold cup of coffee. And yes, I was still in my pajamas. In the end, that's still what it's all about.

46 comments:

zhoen said...

Well... I have the pyamas. Red plaid flannel.

I am so glad you still blog, thank you.

Mary said...

I'm glad you blog too ....

Susan Henderson said...

I love this post.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post, pajama girl. #3 made me laugh out loud - exclamation points! And as for # 8, I couldn't agree more.

Tish
P.S. My birthday is coming up and I've seriously been thinking of requesting only pajamas (men's plaid bottoms with coordinating long underwear tops) so I can feel more "dressed" when I write.

rdl said...

Love the post & poster!!

scotscribe said...

You have a great blog. Would you like to be paid for your writing? If so, email me at scotsd50@yahoo.com for more details. We have a lot of work available.

Patry Francis said...

zhoen: No wonder you've been getting so much writing done. It's the pajamas!

mary: Thanks and ditto!

susan: Thank you and loved your mother question today.

tish: Even your pajamas are more fashionable than mine! And of course, I want to copy. Do send pics.

r: I had fun making that poster, though now I'm thinking of a dozen things I want to add.

Sustenance Scout said...

Patry, I have a high school buddy who works in her pajamas almost every day...and was featured in a metro newspaper because of that wondrous attribute. And the article included a photo of her with her mug of coffee in front of her PC, wearing her cow pajamas. Her husband is still recovering....

And yes, I loved the row of !!!! Next year you can write PUBLISHED!!!!! Novelist. K.

Laini Taylor said...

Great post! I know, I know!!! It has been awesome and validating to be able to say I'm a writer, and fill in blanks on forms that I'm a writer, without fearing the question, "Are you published?" (Well... as a matter of fact...) Not that I SHOULD have felt sheepish about claiming it before I sold my book, but I guess I did. And you're right, though the morning might include an email from the designer running some fonts by me, in the end I'm still in my pajamas, writing. And this very evening my best friend brought me a pair of polka-dot flannel ones! I told her I wasn't going to take them off until April :-)

Ivy said...

What a gorgeous cover for your book, Patry! Well done!

Lorna said...

I love being read by a WRITER!!!!

Cliff said...

Patry, I love this post, too. It's a great story and I'm glad you shared it. You go! I can't wait to see your book on the bookshelves!

Sky said...

Yayyyyyy you! I was in my Amazon account yesterday doing some Christmas shopping. I saw your book sitting there waiting to be released and shipped. Time is slipping closer to the moment when it will arrive at my door! I can hardly wait!

It is so exciting to be present as someone realizes a dream. Hugs and a big toast to you, Patry! :D

tinker said...

It's good to know at least I have the uniform right! Loved this post. I bet those exclamation points brought a much-needed smile to some beleaguered IRS employee :)

I hope someday I'll be able to do the same.

Left-handed Trees... said...

Thank you for this post...when my book deal went South (that's a story I'll have to tell you all about sometime!) I waffled on how I should answer the "publication question". Right now, I'm still working on this--but I'm also still writing, so I usually opt for the honest answer and say it's all in the works. Because finally, once again, it is...I loved reading this!

The Curmudgeon said...

I really enjoyed this one.

It's so very true... and very hopeful....

And I know the grouchy old man in the deli never slipped in an extra quarter pound of turkey... but has he smiled yet?

Tarakuanyin said...

Part of me is envious, and part of me is just filled with joy because it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. I'll have to go back in the archives and find a year ago now. :-)

Hey, do we get to blog your book on the 3rd Day Book Club some day?!!

Matt said...

I loved this post -- and I can only echo others in saying that I'm so glad you blog (and so glad that I found it!). The ten things that have changed are big changes indeed -- and you know better than anyone that your life hasn't -- and won't ever be the same!

- Matt

paris parfait said...

Wonderful post, Patry! But I think your life will change a bit more when you have to start your book tour! It's terrific that you're now able to devote yourself to your writing. You're not the only one who often spends morning in her pyjamas at the computer. And grouchy men at the deli are the same everywhere - always grouchy, no matter what! :)

Patry Francis said...

k: Isn't it a good thing you're not interviewing me in person? My pajamas aren't even as cute as the ones in your cow story!

laini: polka dot pajamas! Imagine the wonderful stories you'll write in those babies! (Love your new photo btw--)

ivy: Thank you! It's interesting that we both have women who's identity is somehow obscured on our covers.

lorna: You're a writer, too--and I love being read by YOU.

cliff: Thanks--and glad to see you here again.

sky: I was just thinking of you yesterday and wondering how you were. (Actually, I think of you EVERY day as I sprinkle hot shot on everything I eat.) So happy you showed up! How exciting to think that my book is sitting in your Amazon account.

tinker: As my agent used to say to me: keep the faith!

left-handed: I'd love to hear your book deal story. I had a couple of close calls myself with another book, and they were heartbreaking. Now I realize that things happen for a reason. The main thing is that you're working now!

curmudgeon: I'm glad you find this hopeful. When I wrote my novel, I had no referrals to agents, no MFA, not a single writer friend--just my own crazy determination. Amazingly, that was enough. As for the deli guy, not even a grin.

tarakuanyin: You are young and extremely talented. You have no one to envy. Oh, it would be so much fun to see Third Day reviewing my book--but probably not good book club ethics. And since we're such a serious formal club here...I guess that rules it out. Besides, what if some of you hated it?

matt: I hope it won't ever be the same. My waitress shoes are now hanging in the garden being battered by the weather. There's no going back now!

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

I love this! A writer's dream come true :)
much peace, JP

robin andrea said...

Yay for writing, Patry. I love that you can write "WRITER" on your tax form. It's great when you can claim that for yourself.

I don't have pajamas. That suddenly means so much!

Leah said...

awesome, inspiring post! i love that you wrote exclamation points on your tax forms! now, how does one become an enthusiastic promoter?

Sereeb said...

Well done Patry . I’m still dreaming of such a moment but even if that moment never comes, I will never give up writing. How could I? It is what make me carry on, smile, live. When I was a little girl I used to scribble the following on my notebooks in Arabic, absentmindedly most of the time: I will never give up, I will never surrender, I will pursue my dreams until I achieve them or die like a hero. Hehehe, I know, that is pretty heavy stuff for a child to scribble on her notebooks.

Anonymous said...
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Alexandra S said...

I want to add to Laini's post! I bought those pajamas and want to pass along the info to you since it sounds like you will be spending A LOT of time in them! They are the softest, most comfy PJ's ever- I got us both a pair at Target and they are made by Xhilaration in the PJ section! Go treat yourself-only $12! And its so affirming and inspiring to read this post, it truly is. Congratulations!!! Can't WAIT to read it!

Sara said...

Mazeltov, Patry! You deserve it.

You deserve it because you are talented and worked hard for it, of course, but you also deserve it because you appreciate it so, and because you are so generous about sharing your glee. It's a delight to watch.

Love that lettering project, too. Talk about oozing glee.

coll said...

At 1100 this morning I was in a similar situation.. cold coffee and PJ's .. sitting at my computer keypad. And I too would have it no other way. How fortunate we are. :-)

A big congrats on having your book published. How wonderful is that!!

beth said...

I just laughed out loud when I read the words on the poster - couldn't be truer for me, either, this amazing year. So many congratulations to you - and I know what it's like to be right back there in front of the computer, struggling away. It feels -- good not to be all that changed, and yet disabused off a lot of illusions. But today - a one-year hooray for you!!

Jenny Rough said...

PJs - the best part about being a writer! Congrats on your book. I like your list.

Patry Francis said...

deborah: Thanks for stopping by to spread your peace. Always appreciated.

r.a. In that case, you can just write in whatever you do wear too bed--though as I recall from your blog, that may be rather chilly at this time of year.

sara: Thanks for sharing the glee throughout the year. (Were you the one who re-introduced me to that word?)

kat: Thank you and very good question. How do you promote your work? Maybe the subject for tomorrow's post...

sereeb: Spoken like a true writer...I can see that little girl so clearly. She was a lot like me as a child. Very best wishes to you--

alexandra: I want, I need, I must have those pajamas! Maybe we can start a polka dot pajama club. My only problem is that there's no Target on Cape Cod--but I think I can order them on line. So okay, it's one in the morning and I really need to go to bed, but first things first: Target.com here I come!

coll: It's comforting to realize I'm not the only one. Tomorrow at eleven I'll be thinking of you!

beth: Sometimes you just have to laugh at what a holy grail publication sometimes seems to be before you get there. It's nice to think of you back at your desk working on your next project. Something wonderful, I'm sure. Thanks for stopping by, and for all your kind words.

jenny: Yes, but do you have the polka dot ones from Target that I'm setting off to buy? They sound truly amazing!

b/sistersshoes said...

THIS was wonderful :D

xox darlene

Patry Francis said...

Darlene: Like your new smile!

KG said...

This was such a pleasant surprise to find this morning. Such an inspiration. Thank you!

It's funny how the pajamas seem to be such a key part of this joyous scene. ;)

colleen said...

Life is never so full and busy as when there is no separation between your life and your work because your life is your work. Both mothering and writing have taught me this.

I love the part about thinking your agent was calling before you even had one!

Signed, writer in the blue terrycloth bathrobe.

Patry Francis said...

kg: I'm glad you found me too. And yes, pajamas are key. There is scientific evidence to prove that creativity is enhanced when the subject wears pajamas. Or at least, there should be.

colleen: Oh, a blue terry robe sounds very cozy. Someday we'll have to declare international pajama day and post pics of ourselves in our "writing uniforms."

Todd said...

I love reading about this success; oddly it gives me confidence to plug on with my own writing. Thanks, Patry.

MB said...

I'm just glad you write and that I get to read. ;-) You rock, Patry!

M. G. Tarquini said...

Whenever I get discouraged, I remember your post about staring at your waitress shoes, hoping you wouldn't have to replace them.

Congrats, Patry.

Patry Francis said...

todd: "Keep plugging" was my mantra for many years. It's a good one.

mb: And I'm glad I get to read your poetry and feel your great spirit. As Kate said in response to another post, "Isn't the net miraculous?"

m.g.: Thanks for remembering my shoes! So far I haven't had to buy another pair, but I'm still hanging onto my bow ties. Writing is a risky business...which is, I suppose, part of the reason we love it.

Caroline said...

Funny how we share almost the same aspirations - and I'm still anticipating all mine coming true next year... ;-) except I don't want fame or kudos!

Congratulations on being nearly published - all those wishes and all that hard work paid off.

ainelivia said...

That's is an amazing image of you still in the jammies having it out with a character, whilst clutching cold coffee. That's a character for a book.

Patry Francis said...

caroline: Look forward to seeing more of your artwork! And good luck on those dreams!

ainelivia: I try not to my characters to act as crazy as I do, but every now and then, they refuse to obey...

K-Oh said...

I love this post for a number of reasons, but especially because...every time the phone rings, I also expect it to be my agent saying, "I have some exciting news!" And when it isn't, I chide myself and tell myself that it wasn't her or that because I was expecting it-- something to the effect that the universe doesn't like to be pressed this hard.

But you've given me hope! It could still be my agent, even if I'm expecting her!

Debra said...

Great post, Patry. I'm still suffering from #2 and dreaming of #4, #7.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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