The Box of Books
I have a new essay out in The Guardian. It’s about carving out a creative life for yourself and also how to contend with rejection and you can read it here. I like how it turned out a lot. I have one more essay coming out next month, and then I will sink back into fiction land for a long time, and you will just have to guess what is going on with my life.
But right now:
My book comes out next Tuesday, January 11. Buy it at your local indie, where all the booksellers are probably real cute. You also might want to check out another memoir which publishes the same day: This Boy We Made by Taylor Harris. I asked Taylor to write today’s letter. It ended up being something I really needed to hear.
But first, some praise for Taylor.
Nicole Chung says of This Boy We Made: “With wisdom, earnestness, and no small amount of humor, she reflects on parenthood and all of the unanswerable questions it raises, exploring what it means to love a child precious to but distinct from you; to wonder about mysteries you may never solve and a future you cannot possibly know. This Boy We Made is a courageous, exquisite memoir, one that will inspire and help readers understand how we can brave the unknown while living in hope.”
It got a wonderful early review in the Boston Globe, which said, “‘This Boy We Made’ not only reflects broader social reckonings, it is itself a reckoning, illuminating inequities entrenched not only within our justice system, but also within seemingly neutral institutions, such as health care.”
At Taylor’s request, I’ll be making a donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia. She wrote today about the simple and pure happiness of publishing a book.
“In kindergarten, my friend John finished his entire math book, like for the year, first. I was second. I thought, ‘Not too shabby, Taylor, but keep an eye out for that one. Is he good with the blocks too?’ John was the sweetest dude and never gloated. He gave ten cents of his weekly dollar allowance to the church. I think he even ate the taco pizza sold in our cafeteria without complaint. A six-year-old saint! John would go on to kick my butt at the cello in high school too, quietly killing the game while I sat behind him, hitting about one out of every three notes.
Not everyone in the number one spot is as nice and gentle as John, but I don’t think it matters. Sometimes it’s not even a person—it’s a clock I hear ticking in my ear. Have I done enough by 38? How do I account for the years I stayed home with my kids? Should I have tried to intern with Penguin in New York when I was 20 and kinda hot? Did I start wearing flats too soon?
I’d love to tell you if I pray enough, or mature enough, or just pull the plug on Twitter, I will stop measuring myself against other writers or time or my own ridiculous expectations. Come to think of it, it doesn’t help that my kids constantly ask me if I’m famous yet.
But something happened the other night that stopped the clock. My box of books arrived. We had already tucked in the kids, but I called them back downstairs, and even though I hate pictures, I told my husband to get his phone ready. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face—the way she shrieked and held the book out, staring at the cover. The way my son’s raised silhouette felt so smooth and glossy under my fingers. I texted a couple photos to friends, and a couple of them asked, ‘How do you feel?’ And without any caveats or disclaimers or addendums, I texted, ‘Happy.’ I didn’t have to look around or read the book lists or listen to the clock. When I’m holding that book in my hands, it’s like the comparisons hear last call and stumble home for the night.
And maybe I’m scared to lose that feeling. Maybe that’s why I want to bury my books beneath the floorboards of my office. Of course I won’t do that—I don’t even go to Lowe’s—but as the book lists come out, and the most anticipated thing among my kids remains pizza or Sour Punch Bites, I think I’ll let myself return to the moment. Not just as a notch in my writing belt or proof that ‘I’ve made it.’ But as a small space in the corner of the world, a corner of myself, where I am happy. No strings attached.”
Taylor will be in virtual conversation with Jessamine Chan this Friday, January 7, hosted by Chicago’s great Women & Children First bookstore. I’m looking forward to this book so much.