Friday, March 11, 2011

Published. The Beginning...

I’ve envisioned this scene since I was ten years old: I walk into a bookstore and there on one of the shelves is my book, tucked in between two other J authors. I finger the spines of the books on either side, then pull out my book, pretending to be some anonymous customer extremely intrigued by this amazing work, then tuck it back. On second thought, I pull it out again and place it face out on the shelf, helping it to intrigue some real customers.

Now that I am published in my first real book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms, which was released on March 8th, I keep walking into Chapters hoping to have my moment. But the book’s not there yet and my moment dissipates with my disappointed. The computer says that it’s there, but it’s not. I wander through the parenting aisles, memoir, self-help, fingering the book spines, wondering if I’ll find it in the wrong section. And wondering too where my book will sit when it’s published.

People often say to me, why don’t you write a book? It makes me want to cry. There is no dream closer to my heart than to write and publish my own book. People also say, I’ve always thought I might write a book one day. That makes me want to scream. Have any non-writers considered how difficult it is to write a book, and then to get it published. I have written books – two or three completed novels – which are crap. And that’s okay, it’s all writing practice. And now, I start new books every year trying to find a marketable motherhood topic that is not yet done or overdone, while I’m also evolving as a mother and writer.

While the dream and desire has been there since I was ten years old, I feel like it's getting closer and closer. During the busiest four years of my life, while I’ve been rearing a child, buying a house, finishing my masters, changing careers, and working full-time, I am writing and publishing more than I ever have in my life. I blog, I journal, I do writing starts. I submit, I write on spec, I write a monthly column. I meet with my writing group every 2nd Tuesday, and I sit in Starbucks and write for hours  every other Tuesday.

Others might call it obsession.

But what is a dream if not obsession?

Obsession to be published drives me – to write more, to write better. It also drives me crazy. I want to silence the marketing voice in my head and just write what I want. I want to take a leave of absence and just focus on my book. I want to carve out more time, more space, more moments, where creativity can flow, where research can happen, where networks can be made.

Perhaps it’s because it’s hard that it’s thrilling. Perhaps because I don’t have the time, I write like a maniac when I do. Perhaps if I suddenly won the lottery and could sit at home and write for 10 hours a day, I would stare at a blank screen with no inspiration. Perhaps if I was awarded some publishing contract, I would produce crap.

I estimate that I’ve already blogged approximately 185,000 words on the topic of making sense of motherhood. That is more than double the typical book length. Writing my book feels SO close and yet publishing it seems eons away. But it’s not enough to write it, my obsession is also to publish.

You would think I would be doing more celebrating over the fact that I’ve actually gotten published in two books coming out this Spring. But for some reason it still doesn’t feel real. The dream has been a dream for so long, that this taste of it – getting published in an anthology – is still surreal.

Maybe that’s why I can’t find Chicken Soup in Chapters. Maybe that’s why I can’t hear what people say when they flip through my copy of the book. Maybe I have had such a wall up about how difficult it is to get published that I can’t even see what’s happening.

Today, after my third attempt at visiting the bookstore, I finally turned to one of the black-vested Chapter’s employees. He tracked it down - it was still in the back, and proudly retrieved it for me. As he handed it to me, I faked a smile. I didn’t want to buy it – I have 30 copies at home. I just wanted to see it there.

So I wandered over to the parenting section, infant subsection, where the computer says its supposed to be. And I put it there, on the shelf, between baby care books, face out. It was all I could do not to take a picture. And a part of me was annoyed that I had to manufacture my “moment”. But another part of me was inspired – it was that easy to see my writing appear on the shelf. I just had to make it happen.


Unknown said...

What a great post, Liesl. And I would have taken the picture, especially if my teenager were there to be embarrassed (yet again) by my picture-taking-for-the-sake-of-a-blog proclivities!!

Such a timely topic. I want to write about Camp Gordon Johnston, which turned a sleepy little North Florida coastal town into a major training facility for a few years in the 1940's. So I went to their annual reunion yesterday (returning today) and every time I said to one of the veterans who had trained there (or anyone who would listen), "I'm going to write a book about this place," I had to simultaneously quash all the negative self talk in my head - "how on earth are you going to organize yourself to write a book?" "someone already did a film about it what else is there to write?". BUT - I am going to do it and hopefully someday I'll find it in our local bookstore (if there are any stores selling books on paper left!!).

Congratulations - as one of your blogging community fans I am proud of you!

Anonymous said...

Yey Liesl. I'm so happy to have you in our writing group and so proud of you being published in two actual books printed in hardcopy, not online, by real of which is now on the shelf at Chapters. Congrats.

Now get back to writing that novel.

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