So far this week, my Debutante Sisters have talked about how the writing journey is solitary, constantly changing, complicated, and a thing to be savored.
Now for something completely different.
In many ways, the debut author’s journey has much in common with Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The hapless author gets into her craft (in our case, a manuscript rather than a rocket), gets launched on her way, and spends many months in what seems like suspended animation, alternately waiting for something to happen and struggling with a set of fears that WILL NOT OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS no matter how much she begs. (HAL’s got nothing on a writer’s goofy subconscious. Trust me here.)
When the journey reaches its endpoint–the release–the author stares in awe at the book in her hands and whispers, “It’s full of stars….”
… fade to black. Journey over. Story ended.
YOU DIDN’T BOTHER TO TELL US WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!?!?!*
Nope. I didn’t. Because when you get there, you realize that a debut author’s book release, like the Odyssey’s journey, isn’t about the ending at all … and that the ending is not, in fact, “the end.” It’s the start of another journey.
Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a reason we refer to “the writing life.” The initial trip to publication, though wonderful, scary, and filled with firsts, is merely the opening bars of a longer symphony. Surprise. It isn’t really over when it’s over.
In December, 1973 I was two and a half years old. A neighbor gave me a pair of lovely presents wrapped in shiny paper and tied with ribbons. I opened the first one, unwinding the bow and setting it gently aside before I slowly peeled back the tape that bound the paper. Minutes passed, but I took my time. I savored every moment until at last I removed the wrapping and revealed a brand-new book beneath. A hardback book. I no longer remember the title but I do remember the cool, slick feel of the cover beneath my hands. I turned it over, opened it up and began to look at the pictures.
After a moment, my mother gave me a gentle reminder.
“Susan,” she said, “there’s another one too. What do you think is in that one?”
I paused, one hand on the page to hold my place, and looked at the second lovely package. I thought it over. “Probably … another book.”
And then I went back to reading.
That story became a family favorite – and never again was I given a book to open so early in the Christmas morning lineup. (To this day, if I open a book, I’ll probably be too distracted to open more.)
As I reach this stage of my publishing journey, I find myself looping backward and realizing the feelings aren’t new ones after all. I love my debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT. I’ve loved every part of the careful, detailed process that brought the story from gift-wrapped idea in my mind to shiny hardback lying in my lap. I took my time. I enjoyed the process. I’ve savored the release as I savored the beautiful images in my Christmas book so long ago.
But yesterday, my editor at Minotaur sent an email telling me the second Shinobi Mystery is approved to go into production. Soon, a package of copy-edits will arrive at my front door. That gentle reminder tells me … there’s another present waiting … and very soon I can share it with all of you.
The title? BLADE OF THE SAMURAI. And tiny toddler Susan was right … it is, in fact, another book.
The moral of this story? The writing journey, like the writing life, is not about a destination. Take the time to look around you, not just now, but every day.
This day the journey.
Take the time to savor every moment.
It’s full of stars.
Thank you to Amy, Dana, Kelly and Kerry, and to all of the readers who have shared this amazing journey with me this year. You, too, are stars in my sky. You have helped to light my journey and I’m grateful that you’ve shared this time with me.
* When I took this gig, I bet my son I could use an interrobang, in context, before my one-year tenure ended. I’ve won that bet with two more weeks to spare.