One copy exists of my book.
I printed it out, had it spiral-bound and gave it to my husband for Christmas. I prefer to think of it as a sentimental gift rather than me being cheap. To his credit, he never once left it in the bathroom. Doesn’t mean he didn’t read the book in there, but he had the courtesy to not leave it.
He hadn’t read a single word before receiving the printout. He wasn’t allowed. He tells this story about how the one time — and only one time — I asked him to read over a story I had written, he rewrote the whole damn thing. OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad but it was a fairly extensive rewrite and I was not happy.
Like me, he is a recovering journalist but of a very different type. He’s wicked smart, very cerebral, and his choice of words and tone reflect his superior intellect. Not that he isn’t funny because he sure can be, but his writing is quite different from mine. He goes high and I go low because, well, what can I say? I love a good poop joke. So, I was scared about what he might think of the book. My book.
The last time we collaborated on a writing project — No. 1’s college recommendation letter, as required of all senior parents by the high school counselors — we disagreed on a lot, but mostly my use of the word “turd.” In the end I won, as I should have, but it also made me realize that we are not good writing partners. When I handed over the very last present to him, I held my breath. I knew that it didn’t matter that literary agents and publishers I didn’t know passed on my work, but he had to like it. If he didn’t, that would be way worse than my email folder full of rejections.
The book, my book, sat on the coffee table all Christmas day. Then the next day and the day after that. I decided this was a good thing because once he started reading, I would know. One way or the other.
He finally sat down on the red leather chair one drizzly day, propped his feet up on the coffee table and picked up the book. My book. He read it almost straight through, which sounds like a brag but it’s really not because this book is really a very, very quick read, as it was intended to be. Every now and then, I would sneak a peek, see if I could tell from his face what he thought. He was like stone. Impassive. No snorts, no sniffles. Nuthin’.
But when he finished, he said, “Your book deserves to be published.”
I suppose he could have been sucking up. But then after we polished off Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” he looked at me and said, “You know, Mrs. Maisel isn’t funnier than you.”
And bam, just like that, I found my cover blurb recommendation.
I appreciated the clumsy compliment* because I understood what he meant. After he finished the book, No. 1 — a voracious reader — picked it up and turned through all the pages, occasionally laughing and a few times crying. She’s a good audience for a needy, wannabe author.
I get that my family is super biased but, ya know, maybe that’s enough approval for me. I kinda feel like I have closure to this chapter. It’s like that scene at the end of “Titanic” when old-fart Rose stands at the edge of the ship and hucks the Heart of the Ocean into the churning blue waters. It was hers and she could do whatever the heck she wanted with it.
Around this time a year ago, a fellow former journalist who did get published — several times, in fact, and I’m going to name drop him here because you should read all of Tom Zoellner’s books — very graciously shepherded me through this whole trying-to-get-published process. Tom said it’s not publication that’s important, it’s the writing. You should have fun and enjoy it because that’s what really counts, he told me.
I did love it. And hate it. Writing was mostly fun and sometimes frustrating, but then, that’s writing. Even better, this book gave me the gift of extra time to spend with my kids, which is truly the best part of this whole adventure. I’m painfully aware each and every day how quickly time flies and how fast they’re growing and how soon they’ll move on to their own next chapters. That is gonna suck. But I guess my heart will go on.
If only one very rudimentary, self-published copy of my book exists, I really think I’m OK with that.
*I am now rethinking what I said earlier about my husband being very good with words, I guess I should say with written words.