Kathleen’s Debut Year Roses, Thorns, and Buds

Many years ago, our family stole a page from the Obama playbook and added roses, thorns, and buds to our family dinners. It’s the high, the low, and the something we’re looking forward to. Here are a few from my debut year:


  • So many times, I shook my head in disbelief that I was actually launching a real live novel I wrote myself. Like, what?! How did this even happen to me?
  • In October, I went on a three-city pre-publication tour with an amazing crew from my imprint, including the authors Stephanie Wrobel and Laura Hankin. Those two have become friends and allies, and I’m still so grateful for the whole experience of meeting and traveling with them.
  • On that trip, I met my agent and editor and a few writing friends in person for the first time. It felt magical.
  • I spent the year writing alongside Nicole Kronzer, mostly in her backyard studio. We were both taking a step back from teaching to focus on our novel-writing, and we both heard about our second book deals within the same week. We’re now critique partners and friends, and I’m so happy about it.
  • My book launched in February before the world changed. I had a slew of events, traveled the country, and even got to meet my fellow deb, Lisa Braxton, in person at Belmont Books near Boston. Sometimes, I’d be getting a coffee in an airport and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m on a book tour.” The year was mostly filled with happy shock.
  • I wrote my second book and finished it on time. That seems like a miracle.


  • It’s the pandemic. I hate the pandemic. I hate it because it kills people, wrecks livelihoods, inhibits connection and travel and education, and because the Trump administration has botched every single aspect of our response. Vote! Vote! Vote!
  • That’s really it. I read a lot about the emotional havoc of the debut year before I experienced it. While I had some anxious moments for sure, I mostly felt grateful and happy. I think this might be because I do not read reviews, I do not track sales numbers, and I refuse, refuse, refuse to fixate on the many parts of the process I can’t control. Be nice and write. That’s all you can do.


  • My second novel, Are We There Yet?, releases in March! Remember about how important preorders are? You can do that here.
  • I’m contracted to write third and fourth novels with Berkley, and I can’t wait to continue with that crack team.
  • I’m returning to teaching for a few months as a long-term sub in the same position I vacated last June. I missed teaching, and I’m excited to wade back in.
  • I’m also excited to hand over the reins here to the 2021 Debs. They’re fantastic, and you’re going to love meeting them.

Author: Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.