Hot Damn, I’m a Published Author

When I woke up yesterday morning here on the West Coast, I looked at my watch and laughed out loud. My book had already been for sale for thirty minutes on the East Coast. It had happened just as I’d always dreamed it would: I literally woke up one day a published author.

I lay there for a few minutes, savoring the first hour of my book’s life in the world. Somewhere, maybe in Brooklyn, or D.C., or Atlanta, someone might be picking it up, opening the inside flap, weighing it in their hand. Maybe they’d put it down, and pick up another. Maybe they’d tuck it under their arm, a keeper. It struck me how little control I have over its fate anymore, and I stopped laughing.

Then I got up, went to the gym, got my hair done, picked up the balloons, picked up the cake, got dressed, did an interview, had a photo shoot, did a reading and had a party.

Now I’m sitting in my pajamas at 10 in the morning, reflecting on the perfect launch day. A friend of mine, after our second Minnesota Lake Water cocktail* last night, said, “It’s like a wedding, only it’s all about you! You don’t have to share the spotlight with anyone!” It was funny, but in a way it was also true. There have been very few days in my life that were really, for a few hours, All About Me and no one else.

It made me uncomfortable at times, like when the photographer from the Bay Area News Group, who showed up for my first ever photo shoot an hour before my first ever reading, posed me awkwardly in the Mystery stacks, then told me, “You’re too stiff. Loosen up!” There were moments that were stressful, like when the lady who was supposed to have my balloons ready but didn’t regaled me for ten precious minutes about how her boyfriend from Healdsburg had showed up and they’d had a big fight and I gritted my teeth and said, “I. Really. Need. Balloons. NOW.”

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Me, grinning like a happy idiot at my reading

But mostly it felt great. The moment I walked out to read and saw over 50 of my friends crammed into the event room at Book Passage is the one I will treasure until my last day. Each and every one of those people had been there for me with encouragement, a long walk, or a glass of wine as I struggled for six years to write this book, and when it finally saw the light of day they showed up. As I looked at them, I thought about how many of them have made their own remarkable journeys during those years. Like Tammie, who earned her Family Therapy degree (a five year process); Leanne, who picked up a camera and taught herself to be an photographer (a six year journey); and John, who went from a student in an adult “school of rock” to a musician whose band packs houses across the Bay area (an eight year journey). We’ve all shown up for each other in these endeavors, and while last night was about me, it was inspiring to see all those “middle aged” dreamers in those seats, each of them finding new inspiration with every passing decade, each of them cheering one another on as we chase it. Our kids may think we’re all washed up, but the truth is we are just getting started.

I don’t know how THE LOST GIRLS will fare now that it’s been sent into the world. It may soar, it may flop, or it may — and this, I suspect, is most likely — be a modest, midlist success. Last night wasn’t about that. Last night was about celebrating the victory that comes when you put your head down and grind it out, whether it’s to earn a degree, learn to take beautiful photographs, put together a rock band, or finish a novel. Whenever that day comes for you, and whatever that victory looks like in your life, I hope you have cake, and balloons, and an appropriately-themed cocktail. We all deserve no less.

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Cake. Balloons. Minnesota Lake Water.

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* Minnesota Lake Water cocktail, courtesy of dear friend and mixologist Page Murray:

4 parts vodka
1 part Curacao
juice of half a lemon
Champagne
Shake first 3 together, strain into martini glass
Top with Champagne and garnish with lemon twist
Drink gently

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After a decade practicing law and another decade raising kids, Heather decided to finally write the novel she'd always talked about writing. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and the Tin House Writers Workshop, all of which helped her stop writing like a lawyer. She lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband and two teenaged children. When she's not writing she's biking, hiking, neglecting potted plants, and reading books by other people that she wishes she'd written.

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This article has 9 Comments

  1. Okay, seriously, I don’t know you, but couldn’t be more proud! How very exciting for you. Congratulations. Enjoy the moment, and know that your words inspire the rest of us. I love your line about the younger generation thinking you and your friends are all washed up. NOPE! Life is never done…as you proved. It is a series of moving forward and discovering all of your hidden talents. You are a shining role model of what life is really about. Thank you for the inspiration and good luck on your first published novel.

    1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. This whole experience has been about learning how to open doors I didn’t even know were there as recently as ten years ago. I feel more vital and creative at 51 than I did even as a youngster of 25. It’s never over! 🙂

  2. Congratulations Heather! I’ve loved following your path to publication – one week at a time! I’m right on your heels, so every post has been applicable, enlightening, and so much fun to read! I wish for you the very best in your continuing career! Now, off to buy my copy!

  3. Heather, I pre-ordered your book for my Kindle and read it in two days. I LOVED it. Could not put it down. Sometimes I get very irritated by the double-narrative. You get “hooked” on one storyteller—and hate to leave them to the bounce to the other at the end of the chapter. But girl, you made it WORK! I was as engaged with Lucy’s story as I was with Justine’s. Your twists were not predictable, and a few took my breath away. Please don’t let 6 years go by before you finish your next novel… because I will be waiting. T.

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