Less than a month away from the release of my new book, PLACES LIKE THESE, and I’m feelin’ it… those pre-publication jitters.
I’ve been sticking pieces of advance praise and promotion up on my single remaining social media feed, and I read one of the stories for the Artisanal Writer a couple of weeks ago which you can see on YouTube. (Book*hug is handily compiling all the things.)
But I’ve also been distracting myself with the revision of a challenging novel. This is because I’m more comfortable there: inside the quiet space of creation, behind the wall of silence as Joyce Carol Oates calls it.
“If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework you can still be writing, because you have that space.”
I love that space.
I cozy up inside of it; I hide out (and, incidentally, this is also why my subscribers sometimes don’t hear from me for months at a time…).
I’m the introvert; my sister (to whom this book is dedicated) is the extrovert.
But sometimes creative introversion can be a problem. After all, “art is not a support system for life. It’s the other way around.” (Thanks, Stephen King).
While life begins to demand that I step out from the silence to engage (to help usher new book baby into the world), I’m also feeling that thing of being exposed. Catherine Bush wrote about it in this excellent short post — which I often share with new writers who think there’s something wrong with them — called Nakedness.
“Bringing a novel to the world is pleasurable — and yet also, oddly, shameful. There’s an inevitable vulnerability in the risk of self-exposure, or in the risky self-exposure,” she writes.
We don’t talk much about the place of shame in publication but I’d wager most writers touch it to some degree. We long to disown what we’ve written, to cast it off in case it embarrasses us, or because it embarrasses us, because we’ve put everything of ourselves into it and that’s embarrassing, because the disowning is necessary in order to move on.”
The disowning is necessary but so is fully owning the process, I think.
The launch, the releasing it to readers, the public scrutiny — the transition in which the book becomes a public entity. It’s ceremonial, in a way.
(Am I overthinking this? Probably, but then that’s an occupational hazard, isn’t it?)
Dwelling with the book in this process of uncomfortable closeness allows one to contextualize the work. To see it from different angles. To figure out a little bit more of what happened in order to move towards the next project that will demand our all.
The oldest story in this book was written more than twenty years ago. I wrote it (Home Wrecker, previously called Ghost Story) in my yellow office in my husband’s and my tiny first house in Orillia—but I might have started it in my purple office in our short-term apartment in Toronto). I remember the sensational thrill when Descant accepted it for publication. It was my very first short story to be picked up by a literary journal.
It was ‘me-content,’ me-interpreting-made-up-life’ from an earlier time. And, yet, it shares a thread with all of the other stories. Each character is trapped in some way and trying to get free. Like Mel in This Has Nothing To Do With You, like Sandy in Swarm, all of the characters in this book, whether they are in Northern Manitoba or travelling in South America, yearn towards growth.
This analysis didn’t happen while I was writing. It’s only begun to happen as it starts to go beyond me, to become a thing of the world. As if the book, previously considered and crafted behind that wall, has become a collaborative object.
(Which of course is what reading is all about).
It is an intensely vulnerable process. But it’s not like there’s an alternative.
Long story short, I’m feeling lots of feels.
I’m very proud of it — this, my fifth book. I love the cover more than any of my previous covers. (Thank you, Ingrid Paulson, who talks here about her process with book design).
I’m grateful to her and everyone else who has helped PLT make its way into the world: early critical readers, all the lit journals that first picked the stories up, my agent, the fantastic crew at Book*hug Press.
And, of course: readers.
I hope so and I hope that, if you like it, you might consider doing one or two things to help it along: review it on Goodreads, 49th Shelf, etcetera; recommend it to your library for purchase; attend some upcoming events; or get in touch with me for a chat with your book club or to teach a workshop.
Once I get going, I do love talking about writing, especially if we can dive deep. I’m a writer who focuses on emotional verisimilitude and honesty and that’s likely because it’s important to me in my daily life. Behind this wall of silence, I will be, waiting for impressions of the book, for the meaning-making of readers.
Safe travels, book baby. I’ll stay with you for a while to hold your hand.