Here we are. I am finished teaching my summer class; I will submit grades this weekend, just before I board a plane south to Texas. In a few days, on August 19, my first novel comes out.
But I’ve already held my book. I cradled it against my chest in the most absurd paternal gesture. I welled with tears. I was ridiculous. But there it was, the result of nine years from concept to book, five years from draft to book, one year from finished manuscript to book. And the book was there, not in pages printed from my computer or even in bound proof copy but the actual thing, cover and all. The smell of the binding glue still strong in the pages.
I only get to keep a few of those first books — the rest I’ve already signed and sent on to new homes, to people who supported the book event in Columbus or to the people who will eventually win the Goodreads giveaway. I sat in my living room, a movie on the tv and the lamplight over my shoulder, and I signed books. As if I was some author.
Someone asked me that in an interview recently. What does it feel like to be a published author? I answered honestly — the work is never finished, so I don’t know how to answer, because I’m not a published author, I’m a publishing author. Verb tenses matter. But if I’d been even more honest, I’d have simply stopped at “I don’t know how to answer.” It feels so surreal: I’ve been chasing the dream of publishing a novel since I was in 7th grade, writing chapters during Sustained Silent Writing Time in Mrs. Hoffmann’s English class. And now I’m about to be 38 years old (Hagridden and I will share a birthday) and Mrs. Hoffmann, my beloved teacher who so encouraged me in my writing, is driving for hours to be at the release party for my novel. I don’t know what to do with that. For all my daydreaming about what it would feel like and how I would react to it, feeling this moment is something I wasn’t prepared for. I don’t think you can prepare for it. I don’t think you should.
I ought to be posting the requisite plugs, the links to the website and the Facebook page and the Goodreads giveaway, the reminders about the release date and upcoming events as I go out on book tour and blog tour. And sure enough, I’m hyperlinking some of that text you just read, because it’s my job.
But I really just wanted to step back for a moment and look at this thing we’ve done. Me and all the folks who helped get the book here. To breathe it in.
People keep asking me if I’m excited about my book tour. Or nervous. If I’m ready for the readings. If I’m eager to do book signings. I don’t know what I am. I am all these things. I’m nothing at all. I’m a man who wrote a novel, and here it is.
How amazing is any of this?