I’m officially a published author.
And this is my story of how becoming an author resembled my original plan about as much as I resemble my 80-year-old, fourth-cousin Charles.
I took a deep breath and wrote “Here it is in all its glory!” in an email to my editor. My fingers hesitated, hovering over the keys. What else could I possibly say? It’s my baby, treat it kindly? It’s my first baby, rip it apart so the next one is better? I settled instead for a Ha! (which is still a nervous laugh even in digital communication) and quickly added Mindy. All that was left was to attach the file. It needed to go out today if I planned to make my launch date happen. Just have to attach that manuscript. That’s it. Simple.
Two weeks later…
I’m kidding. I only stared at the screen paralyzed by fear for 20 minutes or so. It was time, and I couldn’t put it off any longer. If I held on to that manuscript much longer, I was going to light it on fire.
OK, you got me. I was going to hit delete and then immediately dig it back out of my wastebasket. Maybe.
You have to let go sometime, I told myself, a mantra I’d been repeating to myself for days. Eyes closed, I tried to send my mind out into the future, to probe the different possible outcomes of publishing this book. What’s the worst thing that could happen? In that moment, the worst thing I could think of was that no one would read it. Not that I would receive a bad review or even several, because I expected those, but that no one would read it. I wanted it to be read. I wanted it to live out in the world and take on a life of its own.
I’m ready. I can do this. I want to do this.
I attached the final draft of my manuscript—click, click—my stomach pumping more acid straight up my esophagus as I hit send. Much like watching my daughter walk herself to her kindergarten classroom for the first time, I held my breath as the email did its digital thing and sent. Also like watching my baby go to kindergarten, I was overwhelmed with anxiety over things I had zero control. A mix of horror and joy, I worried for my book as I had worried for her: How would the rest of the world treat my baby? Would they be kind?
Another beat, and the anxious thought that had almost prompted another full round of revisions showed up right on time:
Is it good enough?
Good enough for what? I tried to argue with my inner voice.
“Let’s just go look at a couple of houses and see what we find,” my husband said on a Saturday, the same day we decided we needed to move 20 miles away to a town I avoid if at all possible but knew would be the best option for our children and their education. It had been another long week of issues from the school. It had been another week of beating our heads against the wall as we researched and evaluated possible solutions to the issues and still found none. We had been at this for 11 months. We were getting nowhere.
A move hadn’t been on my radar for at least another two years. And I have emotional baggage attached to the town we would be moving to. Maybe we were being impulsive. Surely we don’t really have to start looking this soon to be in a house by the beginning of the next school year, right?
“I don’t really want to,” I said, my nose crinkled. In addition to my hesitation, I dislike trying to coordinate with a realtor, and I especially didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. We weren’t sure we wanted to move, were we? I mean, really. We only just decided. “We don’t need to start looking now.”
My husband, always enthralled with the idea of picking a house, reminded me of everyone we knew who had been looking for months and months, making offer after offer before they finally found a home. The market was uber-competitive right now. He wasn’t wrong.
I gave him the look that says I still don’t wanna as he gave me the look that signals his brain has already moved twelve steps forward and has extrapolated 150 different possible outcomes based on a spark of an idea and it will be like stopping a high-speed locomotive to get him to stop at this point.
“OK,” I finally said, with a sigh. “I’ll look at what you’ve found.”
While my husband wasn’t excited to move to a new area (he had lived in the same town his whole life; it felt like home because it was), house-hunting online is one of his favorite pastimes. He’s a guy who sees the potential within every structure, ignoring the bad and planning for better. He had already found dozens of houses he wanted to look at. I narrowed that down to two. With more encouragement, I reluctantly agreed to look at those two.
Two turned into four, and three days after we decided to move for the sake of our children, we made an offer. An offer, to be clear, on a newly listed for-sale-by-owner house. An offer that was less than asking price in an area where many people were getting the asking price and above. We fully expected to be rejected. Dear God, please let them say no, I had prayed.
To our amazement, our offer was accepted.
We went from not planning to move to the future owners of a new house in the span of a long weekend.
Oh, and our closing date was set for the same day as my book launch. My book launch I’ve been planning down to every last detail since October 2019.
Now we had a week to get our house scrubbed beautiful, partially remodeled, and mostly packed so we could get it on the market. And the living room was wrapped in circa 1990 faux wood paneling and paint from the previous owner. Hunter green.
By some kind of karma I’m still not sure I earned, my editor finished with my manuscript at the same time and I needed to respond to her questions and edits, and I needed to have them returned within two weeks to make my deadline. Also, I’m a mother of three (plus a dog) who works from home. Our sitter comes to us and I work from the basement. Our home, which once through the remodel and cleanup needed to remain pristine and show-ready, is our daycare, my office, and my business home.
This was definitely not something that I included in my book launch plan. But at least the house looked a whole lot better than it did before. Good riddance, paneling. Hello, modern paint color!
I jolted awake and quickly pushed myself upright sometime between a Tuesday night and a Wednesday morning. It was dark outside, and thankfully everyone else was still asleep. That Wednesday was an important day. Someone wanted to buy our house, and inspection time had arrived. It was also my day to get my edited, proofread, formatted book uploaded so I could order author copies and send e-copies to book reviewers. Not sure why I had awakened so suddenly, I sat on the side of my bed hoping my heart would calm back down to a normal rate as I glanced at my still-snoring, very asleep husband, envying his ability to rest peacefully. As I took deep, slow breaths, I pulled my hair away from my neck, letting the fan cool me. Is the queasiness in my stomach from nerves and stress? Or did I catch the stomach bug the kids had over the weekend?
Five minutes later, I rushed to the bathroom and had my answer. Trembling, tired, and weak, I spent the rest of the night drifting away when I could and planning for the day when I couldn’t.
To stick to our contracts to buy and sell, the inspection had to happen as scheduled. Our sitter pitched in to complete last-minute tasks (you’re amazing and we appreciate you more than we could ever express!). Eventually, I dragged myself out of bed, and with the help of our sitter who also wasn’t feeling well at this point, loaded up the kids and the dog, Lysol’d everything, and headed to my parents’ house.
On a day when I couldn’t do more than survive, my editor, friend, and father and mother took care of my book, house, and kids for me. It was a day with a lesson: I had a great village, but I couldn’t make my launch happen if one more unexpected thing popped up. So I decided to push back the launch of my book by a couple of weeks to give myself time to move and to enjoy the release of my debut novel.
And boy, I never, ever expected COVID-19.
The news about COVID-19 had started up a few weeks ago, but it had still felt so distant and wasn’t even a thought. The growing number of cases had still been thousands of miles away from us. We were sort of cocooned in the Midwest, weren’t we?
To be continued in Part 2…