The other day, I told someone that my book comes out next month. Then I had to wrap my brain around the fact that I’ll be a published author one month from today. That I’ll be able to step into a bookstore and buy my own book. That people who aren’t related to me can step into bookstores and buy FIRSTS.
(I’m still working on wrapping my brain around that.)
Some things change but look remarkably the same.
I like to think that I’ve accomplished some pretty cool things in my life, but nothing else I’ve done has been close to this important to me. Being an author is something I’ve thought about since I was a kid, something that has seemed both close enough to touch and so completely far out of reach over the years. Even when I wasn’t writing, even when I was busy doing other things and chasing other dreams, writing never left me. Getting published was at once my most farfetched goal, the one ambition simmering just beneath my skin, the something pressing against my brain, never letting me forget about it. Writing has always been my second pulse.
I used to be scared to call myself a writer. Until a year ago, most of my friends and family members didn’t even know I wrote. I spent a good chunk of two years working away in secret on my lunch break at work and at home, snuggled on my couch with my dog. I had notebooks full of my nearly indecipherable handwriting and a computer filled with Word documents, and I had no idea if any of it was worth my time.
Today holds even more significance for me than being one month from publication. It’s the anniversary of the day I sent my first-ever query letter, for a New Adult contemporary book, on December 5, 2012. That realization made me think about what I’d tell that version of me, the one from three years ago, the one psyching herself up to hit “send.” This is what I came up with:
Dear Three-Years-Ago Laurie:
I know you worked really hard on this book and agents will have to know that, right? They’ll definitely be clamoring to represent you. But here’s a hard truth: They won’t. This book isn’t it. You’ll have to write two more and learn a lot with each one before you get an agent. That third book—the one that pours out of you, the one you don’t plot at all—that’s the one.
But don’t for a second feel like you wasted your time. None of your words have been a waste. Not a single deleted chapter, not a single page of notebook paper or that napkin you scribbled on at the bar at last call. Let me tell you, you’re in for a serious roller coaster the second you hit send. You’re in for a loop of highs and lows that wreak havoc with your emotions. You’ll jump on the couch, Tom Cruise style, and shriek when you get your first full request. You’ll spend a lot of time refreshing your email. (And I hate to break it to you, but you still do.) You’ll feel totally worthless when you enter contests and don’t get picked. You’ll get rejections—lots of them. Each one stings, but you wisely file them in a separate email folder so that you don’t have to see them. You make decisions and learn how to trust your gut, because it’s your compass in this industry.
You feel a little buzz, a jolt of electricity, each time you send a query. But it takes a particular brand of courage to hit “send” for that very first time. It takes a half an hour and a glass of wine. You don’t see it as a huge accomplishment at the time, but it is.
It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Because you don’t know it yet, but you hitting that “send” button is what a dream coming true looks like.
Oh, and December 5 is also special because it’s my dad’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dad! You’re still my hero and always will be.