April 28, 2017 § 15 Comments
Strangely, I’ve had a good amount of good news lately. I say strangely because the negative political energy right now is thick as a skull, and it’s hard to imagine anything good squeezing its way in.
Anyway, in late December my agent called to say we had an offer for my novel, a good offer. From Blackstone. I was thrilled, but enough of me doubted the deal would actually go through, that I just went on about my business. Weeks later this came out in Publishers Weekly:
I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop saying holy shit. My husband made a lobster dinner. We drank a great bottle of wine. Tiramisu for dessert. I couldn’t stop smiling. He couldn’t stop smiling. Friends congratulated me on social media. I called my kids. The pride in their voices.
That this could happen.
But then, all I wanted to do was hide.
For some of us, building confidence is no small thing. It can be exhausting really. And if you grew up hearing who do you think you are, if you grew up in a home where calling attention to yourself could get you broken apart broken into, the realization of large scale public exposure is enough to send your body flying to the ER where there’s a nurse who will hold your hand and call you honey and remind you to breathe deep and give you a bunch of little white pills to take home just in case.
I’ve been writing this novel for a long time. Over a decade. Sometimes I tell people it’s because I write slowly—which is partially true. I’m kind of like a haikuist novelist. But the bigger truth is, it’s taken me this long to believe I could handle the reader’s judgments and interpretations of my imagination my mind my body my heart.
My birthday was the day after the Publishers Weekly announcement. March Fourth. Yeah, ha, I was born with a directive: March Forth.
I woke up that day remembering the Publishers Weekly photo. Mouth dry. Cramp in my gut.
I took a long hike along the ocean. The sky a pale gray. March air snapping at my face. A gull pecking at a crab broken on the sand. For some reason I remembered then, how the little girl inside me used to march around the yard of childhood yell-singing The Battle Hymn of The Republic, a stick sword in her hand, yell-singing as a way to safely rage at a mother who used a daughter to rage at a husband, who used his daughter’s body to soothe his rage.
I’ve promised to protect this little girl. I owe her. Putting my book out there and basing a character on her, felt a little like throwing her to the wolves, because you know, people can be, well, cruel. Look at the way the world kills children every single day.
When I arrived back home, my husband handed me an official looking envelope. On the corner it said “Blackstone Publishing.” “Pretty sure that’s your advance,” he said.
I kid you not, the check for the book advance arrived on my fucking birthday.
Too much real all at once. Fear like a large hand covering my mouth and whispering in my ear, Trust me. I won’t hurt you. Trust me.
I sat down hands covering ears.
My beautiful earnest husband, kneeling in front of me saying “Hey. Hey. You know, Gordon (my agent) asked to represent you because he loved your book. And Blackstone offered you a contract because they loved your book. He taps the check. “They believe in you. Big time. And I think maybe you can trust them. And respect their integrity. And also? The integrity of the people who will read it.”
Stopped me in my tracks.
One thing my therapist would often say to me: My wish for you is that someday, you’ll see yourself the way others who love you, see you.
I took the envelope from him. Opened it. The check. The weight of it. The way it looked at me—as if it too, was gauging my worthiness.
“You’ve been writing all your life,” my husband said. “You’ve worked so hard. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard. You deserve this. You’re allowed to feel good about it. ”
“So hey, you want to dance?” he said.
I laid the check carefully on the table as if it were glass but not fragile glass more like window glass. Stared through it for a minute, and said, “Hell yeah,”—suddenly knowing bone deep,the safest place for that little girl, was on my shoulders.