Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Book Club Skypes and Other Humbling Things
Years ago, when I was writing Some Kind of Normal, I dreamed of what it would be like to be a published author. To say the least, those dreams were unrealistic. Hitting bestseller lists, traveling on book tours, seeing my book on every bookstore shelf - maybe even in the hands of a stranger in an airport. Being the book of the month for some big book club.
I knew they weren't realistic dreams, but they were fun, and sometimes, in the grueling, lonely long hours of writing when nothing on the page seems to come out right and in those long months of rejections by agents, dreams are what you need to keep you going.
Life as a published author hasn't been quite the way I hoped - at least not continually - but it's certainly had its moments. I hit a bestseller list on Amazon for a few weeks. That was a buzz! I signed books in Barnes and Nobles. I saw my novel on a shelf recently in a bookstore a few miles from my home. I've had strangers approach me in public places or email me to say they've read it and loved it. I've had book clubs choose to read it.
And this past month, I was asked to join a book club in Canada via Skype. I can't even begin to say how cool that was.
So last night blogging friend Lynn Simpson Skyped me from her group in Alberta, Canada, and we chatted.
I'd like to say I felt like a rock star, but really, I felt like myself - a bit overly-talkative, embarrassed, and completely inadequate to be a part of their night.
They asked great questions, seemed like a great group of people... I wished I was there with them, talking to some other author via Skype.
I'll make a confession - it's been three years since my book was published, and just that long since I've read it. The editing and proofing process made me sick enough of my writing at the time that I haven't had the heart to go back and read it again. And I realized, as I was getting ready to chat with the book club, that I had forgotten some of the minor character names and minor plots. So I took out the book and read it.
Three years, a graduate school degree, two more novels and a handful of short stories later, my writing has really changed, and I could see all the weakness of this writing, could see why agents rejected it, could see places that were just rough.
I felt almost apologetic about them reading it.
I didn't hate the whole thing. There were places I really loved, things I did really well that I haven't since done as well. I cried through most of it. I marveled at a few turns of phrases and scenes and dialogue. I love those characters with all my heart.
But still... if I wrote it today, it wouldn't be the same.
And I have to be okay with that. I certainly don't want my first book to be my best - for my writing to go downhill from here. I want to get better. One lady said, "That was really great for a first book," and I loved that comment because it is how I feel. It's not some literary groundbreaker, and I won't win big awards for it, and I hope it's not the best thing I'll ever write, but it's pretty good for a first book.
But what I did realize talking to them is that I loved writing that book. I wrote it because I was passionate about it. I was passionate about diabetes and stem cell research and finding faith when it seems like questioning God isn't allowed. Just answering their questions, I found myself excited again about all those things.
And that is what I've been missing. Writing from that place of passion. I can love my characters. I can love my story idea. But it hasn't been that same level of passion that makes me stop people, corner them and talk to them for hours about how the real world could be changed by what I'm learning as I write. I'm not sure how to get back to that place, but I'm working on a new novel now that I hope will be that way.
For now, I'm loving the women in that book club who took their time last night to talk to me, to tell me what they loved about the book, the characters they fell in love with, how they'd guessed where I'd drawn the line between fiction and real life, who read so carefully and treated me like a honored guest. To me, they are the rock stars.