What She Said


We are six weeks into shopping the book around. So far, no contract. I’ve been told that it’s early, that the book will sell, not to worry, yada yada yada.

You know that saying by Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” This is exactly how I feel about this book. Every rejection feels like someone is ripping my heart out. Last night, I went to bed feeling like I was going to throw up.

Writer-friends have told me that the entire process made them depressed/anxious/manic. Another friend shared she had more nightmares than she’d ever had in her life. I’m having incredibly stressful dreams — one night I dreamed that my husband was leaving me, then next night I dreamed I was pregnant with twins. I’m waking up exhausted. I’m throwing myself to other projects — applying for fellowships, revising my picture book. But it’s not really helping.

I remember the day the Pennsylvania Bar posted the list of names of people who passed the exam on their website. I was so nervous, I made my husband check the website for me, and call me at work with the results. Despite the fact that I was working at a desk and could have pulled up the list of people that passed, the mere thought of doing it made me nauseous.

I don’t handle the unknown very well.

One of my favorite bloggers, Mel, has published one book and is under contract for her next. I’m going to quote her post about what it’s like to try to publish a book, because I think it sums up perfectly what I’m feeling.

Publishing a book is like experiencing infertility.

There is this thing you really want — something you should be able to do if you dedicate the time and energy to the process, because, after all, other people have gotten to do this book publishing/baby-making thing in the past. So you do all the work and send out the query letters and get your heart stomped on month after month as the rejection letters/negative pregnancy tests pour back in — often without explanation.

And sometimes in frustration, the writer/almost-parent considers walking away from the whole publishing/baby-making process, especially because often, there is not a clear answer for why the process is so damn difficult. But it’s hard to talk a heart set on publishing/parenting that it would be okay if you walked away. So you stick around and invest more time, more money, more emotional energy.

And then one day, you get an agent/positive pregnancy test and you feel like you’re finally on the right road! You want to celebrate, but you’re so damn scared — for good reason. The reality is that this first hoop is merely a first hoop to jump through in order to bring home a published book/live baby. And many writers/almost-parents experience more frustration/loss on their way to a publishing contract/live baby.

And if you have stayed in the game this long, you most likely know a lot of other writers/almost-parents, and invariably, many will have gotten to the finish line while you are still running the race. And it will make you feel bitter and frustrated. It may make you feel sad enough that you begin avoiding bookstores/baby showers.

And what drives you forward — what makes you keep writing/trying to build your family — is simply hope. This irrational belief that it will happen for you because it is something that you need. And yes, it is sometimes a need, not a want, these desires that are buried so deep in our skin and bones that we would put ourselves out there — time and time again — despite not seeing the results we want, because the action is tied to who we are as people, to our very core.

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