We’ve talked so much this past year about the ups and downs of the publishing journey — it’s a wild ride for sure. But this week on the Ball, as we come to the end of our debut years, we’re talking about what it was that made it so amazing. Because amidst the craziness, it’s often hard to remember just how truly privileged we are to share our stories with the world (and get paid for it!). Herewith, six things that made my debut year truly awesome.
6. Seeing the book in stores. These little shocks of “this-is-real” come in small doses — the cover reveal, the final pass pages in your hands, the ARCs, when it goes up on Barnes & Noble and Amazon online. But seeing the book in stores is what really clinches it. There’s nothing like walking into that bookstore — whether it be that MASSIVE Barnes & Noble at Union Square, or my darling little WORD just blocks from my home in Jersey City. To be able to go up to the shelf and pick it up, to hold it in your hand — to observe others, real book buyers, doing exactly that — it’s mind-blowing. In the best way.
5. Trips with bookish people. This year, I’ve been to events in Dallas, Austin, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York (home!) and other places, and I’m still headed out to Decatur (where I’ll get to meet Colleen, YAY!), Boston and Minneapolis before 2015 is over. I’ve already got some 2016 travel booked too. It’s been exhausting, but it’s also been really fun, because the places I’ve been going have been home to book festivals or teacher and librarian conferences, which means they’re filled to the brim with people who LOVE BOOKS. The best kind of people. And sharing small moments with them — like my first Chicago deep dish with Amy — has been so grounding. These are my people. They understand the trippiness of all of this, because they’re experiencing it too. I’ve found a tribe this year, with the Debs, the Fifteeners, and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks crew. And they’re amazing.
4. Seeing my kid hold my book for the first time. At five, Kavya sort of got what Mama did for work, but not really. In that first moment she got to hold a copy of TINY PRETTY THINGS, see my name on the cover and my picture (along with Dhonielle Masi’s!) in the back of the book, it all crystalized for her. She gets it now. Mama writes books. And if she wants to, she can too. Excuse the language, but frankly, that’s fucking amazing.
3. People are reading it! How crazy is that? At the RWA conference a few weeks ago, I actually had an agent — a bookish person who reads so many books — fangirl over TINY PRETTY THINGS. That was so surreal. But the really cool thing, the thing that will no doubt stick with me, is the 15-year-old who tweeted Dhonielle and I with the homemade book trailer she made for TPT. She reminded me so much of who I was as a teenager, of how much I fell into the world of the books I read. Of how much they meant to me. To be able to do that for someone else — especially a kid — well, that’s why we’re doing this in the first place, right? And to see those little brown kids in the audience as places like RT, absorbing the fact that, yes, brown girls can write and do write and can get published, well, that’s life-changing — for them and for me.
2. Sharing this ride with Dhonielle. Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. She’s been an amazing partner, taskmaster, sister, work wife, and friend. She truly gets me and gives me the push I need to get things done. She wants the best for me and my family. So rare to find a fellow writer and sister who’s rooting for you almost more than you’re rooting for yourself.
1. That moment when my husband Navdeep saw that TINY PRETTY THINGS is dedicated to him. He had no idea it was coming, and he was floored. And honestly, as much as I loved that moment, it was Dhonielle’s idea. She and I couldn’t have gotten that book or CAKE off the ground without him. Seeing him absorb those words for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget. And I can’t wait till he has his own debut journey.
The best part of all of it is that, while it may seem like the end of a very long trip, it’s truly just the beginning for all of us. We’re in this for the long haul, Deb ladies! Can’t wait to share the rest of this journey with you all.