I had another physio appointment this morning. It’s hard work retraining these muscles. My physio says she expects it to take another four weeks of work (and that means daily exercising at home too) before I can run without pain. And only when I’m running without pain will she begin to address some of the more technical problems with my stride. I’m grateful to be running again, if only for 20 to 30 slow-paced minutes a couple of times a week; but I’m frustrated by not being able to push harder, to run faster, to challenge myself at the pace and speed and distance that I could just a few months ago.
So I feel in between. Very much in between. In a kind of quiet zone I’d never planned to visit let alone linger in.
It occurred to me this morning that I’m in a similar place with my writing. Last year I worked so hard on the specific project of Juliet. In parallel, I worked so hard to become a long distance runner and triathlete. I achieved both goals. And then I fell into this in between zone. And I’m lingering. And I’m impatient. And I’m anxious to get training and working hard again.
For my writing, the in between zone is the launching of the book. It’s done. It’s ready. Here is its chance to enter the world and sink or swim on its merits. I feel a great responsibility toward it, and toward those years of effort. I want to help it find its way. It’s my job, too, to spread the word, to share the words. And that takes time. And mental energy. And painstaking work that feels a little bit like those strength exercises I’m doing every day now. Tiny repetitive muscle motions that are much harder to do than it would appear.
What I hope for, with both of these lingering lulls, is to emerge on the other side stronger and fitter, with muscles retrained and fresh ideas gained and the pent-up angst of a forced rest period channelled into positive energy and drive. Writing a book and training for a marathon are similar exercises. Both require intense commitment to a goal, and the ability to keep working toward that goal even on off days, even when the point of the goal feels temporarily lost. Will this forced wait renew my commitment? Return me afresh to work that can seem, at times, tedious and interior?
I don’t know for sure. But I can hope.
Say you’ve read The Juliet Stories. Say you’ve liked it. Or even, like this reviewer, say you’ve loved it. You think others should read it too. And you can’t wait to read the next book by this writer. Dear Reader, if this is you, please consider. There is much you can do to help. Small things. Practical things. Things that could make a huge difference in the life of this book.
Here are some ideas:
* Review and rate The Juliet Stories at the big online bookstores. You know the ones. (Visit here and here.) Positive reviews and ratings help move the book higher up in the rankings and bring it greater visability. (Negative reviews don’t help; if these exist, rate the review itself as unhelpful.) As of this writing, The Juliet Stories is sitting #81 in the category “Short Stories” on a major bookseller’s site. That’s pretty awesome. Just imagine where it could go with your support.
* Ask for The Juliet Stories at your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, tell the owner/manager/book-loving-employee why they must. Here’s the thing. The big box retailers, Costco and Walmart, sell bucketloads of books, but my publisher can’t afford to send my book there. Not yet. Not unless word-of-mouth spreads sales like wildfire. Big box retailers aren’t really bookstores, and they treat books like any other piece of merchandise, expecting it to sell itself — and within three weeks upon arriving or they return it. Big box stores tend to return lots of books to publishers, often damaged — and in Canada, they do so without any cost to themselves; the publisher carries the burden of all unsold books (yes, it’s crazy, but that’s another story). Right now, it isn’t practical to place The Juliet Stories in the very lucrative big box store market. So make sure your local independent has it. Or your mall’s Coles. Or the Chapters on the outskirts of town.
* If The Juliet Stories is already at your local bookstore, hurray! Tell the owner/manager/book-loving-employee how happy you are to see the book, and how much you like/love it. Make sure the book’s cover is visible, facing forward on the shelf.
* Buy the book. Sounds obvious, and you already have, right? It may surprise you how often this practical step is overlooked.
* Tell your friends about the book. Heck, tell strangers. Word-of-mouth does wonders.
* If you have a book club, suggest The Juliet Stories for an upcoming pick. If you live near me, ask me to visit your book club — I’d love to, and I will. (And I promise not to cry, drink all of your wine, or answer in monosyllables.)
* If you have a blog, write about The Juliet Stories. Or interview me for your blog. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, post about The Juliet Stories. Tell people why they’d enjoy the book. “Like” The Juliet Stories’ Facebook page.
Dear Reader, Virtually all of this holds true for any book you love. And virtually all writers are just like me: hoping their offering gets found and read. Spread the love.
One more thing, Dear Reader. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’ve found and read Juliet. Truly. Thank you.
I was glad to have a companion for yesterday afternoon’s rather odd errand — I’d heard the book had arrived in our bookstore uptown.
“I’m feeling kind of silly about taking my camera into the store. ‘Hi, can I take a picture of my book?’ What do you think?”
“Of course you should! It’s your book!”
I was surprised to find copies smack-dab in the front window, too. The article in the window is from yesterday’s local newspaper; an interview. Inside the store there was a poster about the launch party this Saturday.
I’m trying to figure out how I feel about all of this. I’m not taking it for granted, not at all. It’s lovely. That’s what it is. It is a lovely experience running alongside the rest of my life.
Yesterday, the rest of my life revolved around selecting disastrous areas of the house (they are all disastrous, so I decided to make the job manageable by focusing on one at a time), and sorting through the accumulated minutiae, organizing, and then vacuuming.
Is it just me, or does “before” actually somehow look better, more welcoming, filled with life, etc., than “after”? Whatever. Those photos represent hours of labour. I was pretty grumpy by the time we got to the uptown photo errand. And I missed my chance to go to yoga class. And no make-up yoga today because Kevin’s working in Toronto. And tomorrow is Family Day which means the pool won’t be open early. And And And.
So, yes. It’s lovely to find the mundane interrupted by the unusual.
This morning a very loose tooth came out — the first baby tooth lost from my little girl’s mouth. She was thrilled and yet it was strange. When would the new tooth grow in? When would the next tooth come out? What to do with the teeny-tiny tooth? After some deliberation, she went back upstairs and put it under her pillow.
I felt something the same yesterday. My new book arrived in the mail. I wanted to celebrate. I took goofy photos. I was thrilled and yet it was strange. Part of me didn’t want to read the words on the page. So final. So done. I think that publishing a book is the end of something. It’s the end of what the book could have been (because isn’t there always room for tweaks and improvements? though tweaks and improvements can so easily spin out of control and become hacks and confusions). But, still. It’s the end of that singular imaginative process.
This morning, my little girl lost her first tooth. Momentous. This morning, I stood by the stove, hair wet from my morning swim, and I opened my book and I started to read the words on the page. Momentous. I didn’t want to stop reading and the porridge was late getting made. I read with trepidation and some distance, wondering what the words would reveal that I never intended them to, wondering how to let go. Part of me wants to take the book upstairs and put it under my pillow. Oh, for the simple and magical exchange of tooth for coin, old for new. Gentle passage.
If publishing is the end of something, it is also the beginning of something else. Like Fooey, I am asking: What happens now? What happens next? What does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth?
Yesterday, I pretended to be a commuter: so this is what it would be like, dressing appropriately, brushing one’s hair, and slogging down the highway to the big city. Yesterday, I met with my publisher, the House of Anansi, one of the last free-standing Canadian independent publishing houses. Their office is large and bright and the hallways are lined with–you guessed it–bookshelves. I enjoyed imagining Juliet occupying space beside other Anansi authors like Rawi Hage and Lynn Coady.
Anansi publisher Sarah MacLachlan and publicist Kate McQuaid (yes, I took my camera along too)
The meeting was to discuss publicity plans for The Juliet Stories. Ah, the many stages of making a book. So I wrote a book, so I found a publisher, so it’s going to print. What now? Indeed. What now is publicizing the book’s existence and asking people to read it, and the next few months will find me absorbed in that pursuit. It’s a real change of pace, that’s for sure. And one hopes it will be a positive change of pace, as my book and I head out into the (largely indifferent) world to make connections. The glass-half-empty part of me made me add the paranthetical aside. Yes, that parenthetical voice hangs out in my head, mostly around 3 o’clock in the morning, but I’m working on suppressing her. Except part of me thinks a hairline of cynicism can be useful too; keeps me honest.
My publicist, Kate, says she hopes this stage will be a happy time, a celebration of all the work that’s gone into making the book what it is; the glass-half-full part of me agrees. Here’s the thing: Writers are not generally outgoing extroverts. That’s why we’re good at sitting for many longs hours with only our thoughts for company. Once upon a time, the mere idea of meeting new people overwhelmed me with conversational paralysis. But I’ve got a decade of motherhood under my belt, a decade of meeting a whole lot of new people–and learning how to ask for things on behalf of my kids, how to demand space and attention when needed, how to listen, how to assess situations quickly, how to problem solve on the fly, how to communicate clearly, how to pinpoint the crux of an issue, how to juggle different needs at the same time, how to be okay with not pleasing everyone. It’s been eight years since my first book came out. Eight years. I’m ready to meet and greet and talk and throw a party or two. Thank you parenthood. I think I can handle this.
Out of our meeting emerged a few things I can share with you right away.
News, news, news
**Goodreads is giving away 10 advance reading copies of The Juliet Stories. All you have to do is visit here, and click on “enter to win”; (you probably need to be a Goodreads member too). Please spread the word.
**Also spread the word about the new Facebook page dedicated to all things Juliet. If you are a Facebook user, you can “like” the page and let your friends know about it too. (I always put Facebook “like”s into quotation marks, which basically gives it the opposite meaning, but you know, you’re welcome to actually like the page too).
**If you’re in Toronto, I will be reading at the Harbourfront reading series on March 7.
**News on the local launch party coming soon.
**Oh, yes, another reminder about Thursday night’s launch of Storywell at Whole Lotta Gelata in uptown Waterloo, 7-9. This is a free event for writers, interested writers, editors, etc. I will be there. Being all extroverted and talking to my cup of gelato. Or possibly to you, if you come too.
I’ve been reading Charles Foran’s biography of Mordecai Richler. It’s a fat book and I’m not even halfway through, but already lines are jumping off the page. I’m deeply intrigued by the portrait of the formative writer–the kid, no more than twenty, who set off to Europe cadging money from any willing family member or friend, working as if possessed, carousing, ambitious. That’s what strikes me most about his formative years, when he was writing frantically and receiving nothing but rejection letters–the sheer volume of his ambition. Of course, in part what he displays is youth. And he had talent even if it was awfully raw at that point in his life. He had luck too. Just before he left Europe to return to Montreal, broke, just twenty-one, he found an agent who admired his potential, and helped him see his way into this life he was demanding for himself.
Charles Foran writes about what might have happened, had Richler not been found and professionally validated; he had a lead on a job at the CBC and in fact worked there briefly writing news copy; but not for long. “By 1952, CBC radio and the new television network were already the destination of choice for those with talent and culture who dared not risk seeing if they could really make a go of it as artists…” [my emphasis]
Guess what Mordecai Richler dared to do?
What elements make up the personality of someone willing, as Foran writes, “to hustle, do what was required. … Henceforth, he would be freelance, his own master and servant. Without security. Without nets.” Brash? Egocentric? Bold? Calculating? Intensely focused? In many ways, it’s not the nicest personality, is it? It can’t really be. You can’t worry about pleasing others, or meeting conventional expectations. It helps not to be apologetic in your approach. Why apologize for being who you are?
(Side question: Does this apply mainly to male artists? Personally, I don’t think so, though traditionally it’s been less acceptable for women to be unapologetic in their ambitions. Now where the heck does motherhood fit into the bold/brash/intensely focused rubric?).
One more thing. Around this same time, Richler wrote to his editor Diana Athill: “Often I think I don’t like or dislike writing, it’s just something I’ve got to do.”
I read those words and felt like something in me had been struck. Yes.
This week has been a flurry. There’s a lot of hustling going on. At various moments during any given day it feels like I’m keeping up; not keeping up; almost keeping up; hanging on by sheer will; taking a tumble; staying with it; losing track; back in the game; organized; overwhelmed. But mostly, okay.
I’m okay because I keep landing on this thought that completely amazes me: I’m doing what I want to do. No, you know, it’s even more amazing than that: I’m doing what I’ve got to do.
Page 7 of 8« First«...45678»