coverI’ve been so busy, pushing forward into future work, and mentoring other writers, that I only remembered yesterday that my baby, my first novel, turned one this month!

So, happy book birthday, Swarm!

There was no party, and I haven’t posted photos on Facebook of the lovely turquoise cover smeared with chocolate cake, but it is a good time to recount, to consider the epic amount of wisdom I feel I’ve gained in the past twelve months.

You grow up as a writer with pretty big dreams, and then you realize that it’s actually the work that counts which, of course, we learn again and again (and again), don’t we?

Before the book launched, I supposed I expected, in that part of my brain where I think I can walk in high heels and still look like I’m 25, that it’d be easy. In other words: Giller, hi, how are you!?

Well, it didn’t quite happen that way but what has happened around the book, and my career, and, most importantly, my ever-deepening relationship with my work is, to quote 1995, pretty damn awesome.

A list of highlights (from the whirlwind of a novel debut):

  • My appearance at The Winnipeg International Writers Festival, which I reflect on here, a year past the date
  • Excellent reviews, including my favourites: Jennifer Quist’s in The Rusty Toque; Jenny Boychuk’s in Coastal Spectator; and a few words about the book in The Toronto Star
  • I got to be on T.V., and didn’t humiliate myself
  • My Ontario tour last fall which took me from Orillia, up to Blind River, into Toronto, east to Peterborough, and west to Hamilton, stopping and staying with fabulous friends and family on the way (and really enjoying road-tripping with my mom for part of it). I was so overwhelmed with seeing so many supportive, loving faces from my past at these events that sometimes I still wonder what I gushed on about in my inscriptions in their books…
  • Readers, readers, readers… every time I go on Swarm’s Goodreads page I’m so excited that hundreds and hundreds of people have added it and continue to tell me what they think
  • And those same readers (one of whom might be you, dear reader, so thank you) voting me onto the CBC Canada Reads list of the Top 40 Books That Could Change Canada which kept be breathless and thrilled and easily distractible for several days

But the book has also brought me a depth of confidence in my skill set, in my identity as a writer, that is invaluable.

I find now, when I’m writing, that I push into the work so much deeper, that I understand what I’m doing in a way that is truly earned by practicing craft day after day, and by having done it once and having lived to tell the tale.

Swarm taught me not to give up. To keep shining the light on the unknown crevices in a story’s shape. To be brave. To persevere. And then to let it out in the world, let it go, and begin another story.

And truly, even if I never win an award for any book I write, even if there’s no one but me toiling away in the writing cave day after day after day (which is always the way it is, during those long years of a book’s gestation), I love writing.

And that’s what matters the most.