I’m not a big birthday person in general, and I’m certainly not the person to mope around about getting older. The fact that I’m about a year or so younger than most of my social circle has benefitted me in that I get to fully appreciate the absurdity of my friends’ going through ridiculous, arbitrary aging stress. But everyone has, according to the very legitimate source of Sex and the City, a ” scary age.” I didn’t realize it, but mine crept up on me this week.
As I was hurriedly putting together everything we’d need for last night’s Northwest Release Party for The Los Angeles Review (which was, by the way, a rousing success–thanks to all who came out!), I had a little too much time to think about having reached my scary age. What did I have to show for myself? What could I say I’d accomplished at this stage in my life? Of course, the major thing I wanted to have by this point was a book. Something I could point to and say, “this is why I am a hermit and a stress case! This is my baby! This is what I have made.” Somehow, pointing to a sheaf of paper stuck together with a binder clip feels a little less validating.
Letting my emotions get to me, I started to stress quite a bit about where my “career” was a this point. I have had an enormous number of rejections on my poetry manuscript, and the number would likely keep rising. What was I doing? There’s a thin line between being a fighter–letting no amount of rejection stand in your way–and being, well, a crazy person. Had I crossed that line? Was I that sad person who’d go to the grave reciting her elevator pitch? Should I go back to my teaching job and forget about the poetry ms and about this new novel altogether?
No, I decided. That was not an option. I was going to pull it together. So what if it took another 10 years to find a publisher? I believe in my work, and even on the days I don’t, I’m lucky enough to have supportive people who do. Wednesday night, I went to bed stuffed with birthday pizza (a little tradition in our house), resolved to feel better the next day.
Thursday, I began feeling more excited than stressed about our Los Angeles Review event. I was excited to get to meet some of our contributors and to support them–goodness knows all writers need that support. As I was cutting up fruit for a tray of snacks to lug over to West Seattle, I heard my email alert coming from the other room. I wandered out, pear juice dripping from my hands, holding a freshly-sharpened santoku knife.
The email wasn’t from a reader canceling on me, as I’d feared. It was from Kate Gale, Editor of Red Hen Press. She’d read my poetry manuscript Burn This House. She’d liked it…she liked it so much that she’d put it on the press’s publication schedule! I don’t know if I’ve ever been so shocked in my life–after staring slack-jawed at the email for quite some time, I came around enough to sound my barbaric yawp, jumping around the room, pear juice flying. (I hope no one could see me, as I’m sure I looked certifiably insane.) In the space of a day, I’d gone from being a writer having a crisis of confidence to a writer with a book on the way.
I’m still in shock, it’s true. And the realities of marketing the book are sure to set in soon. But for now, I’m floating, feeling pleasantly amazed by how much a writer’s life can change–quite literally–overnight.