In less than a month, my debut novel will hit bookstore shelves nationwide.
In one of those stores, someone, somewhere, will shuffle down rows full of shiny new books, tens of hundreds of gorgeous spines beckoning to them, “Pick me! Pick me!,” and by grace, the customer will see the clover-strewn cover of mine, pick it up, flip it over, read the back summary, turn the first page or two, skim the crisp, clean serif, and decide, perhaps, to bring the story home.
What this customer won’t know is the full journey that led up to the book coming to rest, at long last, on their nightstand. The acknowledgements allude to the sojourn of the story, but can never fully describe how this book–indeed any book–is born.
Conception of story and characters, setting and theme are as different for each novel as conception of a child: the blush of an idea, the sweaty palms of awkwardly outlined first chapters, the full on embrace of a functioning plot, and the consummation of the period at the end of the sentence on the very last page.
Even then, the road toward publication has barely begun. There’s the task of finding an agent (I was rejected by twenty-six, , some graciously, some not-so-graciously). Then the agent has to find a publishing house (at least a half-a-dozen passed on mine). A contract is signed and there is a smidgen of time for a glass or two of wine before the edits begin (a process which I’ll detail in a post later this week). A half a dozen rounds of edits later, and galleys are dispersed to reviewers, potential endorsers, influencers, print and broadcast media. Press releases are written. Book signings are scheduled.
…the novel comes to rest on a nightstand.
Conception of How Sweet the Sound officially occurred eight years ago, after my youngest son started first grade, and I had a little extra time to spend on myself during the day. I started reading again, voraciously…the kind of reading I’d done growing up but which had become lost in the blessed, precious mix of diapers and sippy cups, exchanged for a too-brief season of Barney, lullabys and peanut butter kisses.
I studied the blogs and books, journals and journeys of publishing industry professionals and favorite authors.
I wrote and re-wrote query letters, proposals, and scrapped and honed entire manuscripts.
I attended writing conferences. I met with editors whose ability to fast forward or completely squash the advancement of my career scared me so bad I almost barfed in their laps. I sat in workshops and met fellow, freaking-out writers like myself, the newfound realization I’m not the only neurotic writer in the world fueling me to keep. on. going.
I wrote a weekly newspaper column without pay for nearly three years, to keep on writing. To keep on hoping. To keep on moving toward the goal.
Friends, exhausted with the (lack) of visible progress toward traditional publication, begged me to consider self-publishing.
But I couldn’t.
Not because I don’t believe in the value of self-published works, but because I believe more in the process of a team coming together to turn a story into a symphony, as only a book team can do, with editors who press me to write deeper and truer, and more editors to fact check and call me out on sucky prose, and even more editors who catch type-os and grammar I could never in a million years of MFA classes have caught on my own.
Eight years and a long hard road is what it’s taken me to get to release day, March 1, 2014.
Eight years of prayer and pressure, doubt and debt, terror and tears, neurosis, and the emergence of a story conceived, perhaps before I even imagined it. Even before, perhaps even I, was imagined.
Eight years and a long hard road.
That’s what it took to get How Sweet the Sound into your hands.
That’s what continues, behind the scenes, even as I work to complete my second novel, releasing in 2015.
That’s what it means to me, to be a writer.
To bring a symphony, to you.
I titled this post after song by another group of artists who work their tails off to bring their art to the world, a favorite band of my husband and I, The Lone Bellow. Here’s a link to their song, Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.