A few weeks ago my kids and I went to Cedar Point, which claims to be the roller coaster capital of the world. My day was filled with moments of absolute terror, exhilaration, and an assortment of pains in my legs and feet. A roller coaster may be a tired metaphor for a book release, but I’m standing by it. It’s my last post on the Ball, and tired is an adequate description of my present state as well.
Like going up the lift hill of a roller coaster, the months leading up to the release of Girlish were some of the most stressful I’ve experienced.
Anxiety was my nightly companion, dropping by around 2:00am. Of course I worried about what people would think of the quality of my writing, particularly since I took an unconventional approach, but what would they think of me as a person for writing it? Would people judge me—or worse, my children—for revealing the darkness of my past? How would the people who I wrote about respond? What if the alt-right wanted to use my family as an example of why queer people shouldn’t raise children?
I turned to former Deb Lynn Hall. She told me that the anxiety before the release is worse than anything that will happen after. She said yes, there is always some sort of fall-out when we write memoir, but when it comes, you deal with it and move on. When you know it is coming and don’t know what form it will take, it’s highly stressful and the only cure, is for your book to come out and see what happens.
Then came the utterly fantastic parts:
I wrote a book and someone published it! People who did not know me and were under no obligation to do so both read it and liked it. I got to visit bookstores and discuss my book with the reading public, where people actually wanted me to write in their books.
I had excerpts or bylines in Salon,The Guardian, Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, The Advocate, and The Empty Closet. I was interviewed on WXXI, my hometown’s PBS station, and Ideastream, Cleveland’s NPR affiliate.
Most importantly, sons and daughters of lesbians have written to tell me how much it meant to them to see something like their family on the page. They told me how much they related to my story and how I made them feel less alone.
But there were plenty of inversions.
I had some negative reviews, which stung, but the major impact was with my parents—we barely spoke for several months on either side of my release. They did not attend any book related functions and hoped no one would ever find out I had written about them. Not only was this painful for all of us, but it meant every time I posted an interview, byline, or excerpt, I cringed, stressed, and then got angry. I’m sure my parents cringed, stressed, and got angry as well.
Now that the initial momentum has passed, we’re finding our way back to each other. It turned out that since Girlish didn’t hit any bestseller lists or get picked up by Hollywood, the media attention has ebbed. My parents have realized that not only have they lived through it, but that my book has helped other people. They’ve allowed pride to replace some of their bitterness. The ride is coming to a end, and we can get in line for the next adventure: Mama, Mama, Only Mama: A Single Mom on Parenting, Divorce, Dating, and Cooking, with Heavy Doses of Humor and Advice.
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- Mama, Mama, Only Mama! Lara Lillibridge Discusses Book 2 - Tuesday, July 31, 2018