Tuesday, November 14, 2006
10 THINGS THAT HAVE CHANGED SINCE I SOLD MY NOVEL and one that hasn't...
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.