It took me three days to write about ALA because the experience has left me uncharacteristically speechless. I’ve mentioned before that the publication process has been surreal for me from the auction of Split through the copyedits through holding the ARCs in my hands. And, so I expected the same kind of thing with ALA. After all, things that don't happen in real life were happening: Knopf flew me out to ALA to go to a party where they were featuring four of their debut novelists (yours truly, Anna Jarzab, Marianne Malone, and the fabulous Jame Richards) at a cocktail party for their It’s a First launch. Right there, that’s enough to send me into surreal-city. But it was even better than that.
I got to meet my fabulous agent, Rosemary Stimola. I was a bit concerned because I had pretty high expectations of my fairy godmother. Over lunch, we discussed everything from her daughter’s recent wedding to my second book, BIDDEN. I got all my questioned answered and a better sense of this industry. And, we had a good chuckle over my complete inability to conceal every emotion I experience. Even in my emails, as it turns out. Other than the absent wings and wand, she lived up to my image of her.
Then I took the elevators down toward the conference floor. Apparently, I thought, surreal-city has an address. But it seemed unusually real. I wandered from booth the booth, taking photos for friends when I saw their books on their publisher’s shelves and then found a lot of books sitting on the floor. I wondered, are these the ugly sister books?
When I walked over to Random House, I searched for my book on the shelf and couldn’t find it. Instead, I discovered all these books with shiny, green stars sticking out of them, with names like Booklist, Kirkus, Library School Journal: ah, those special books that have starred reviews.
I finally found Split. Sitting on the floor. And worse, there were hardly any of them, maybe three. So, ugly sister, eh? But then, a librarian picked a copy off the floor and I suddenly got it: Librarians were free to take copies of the books on the floor, not the ones of the shelves and so, the fact that mine were nearly gone was actually a good sign. (They had completely disappeared before I left) The shelf copy, it turns out, had been lifted; I never thought I’d be happy to have something stolen before.
Before I met my editor I knew a few things about her: she’s a baker, she has a great sense of story and she is very kind and thoughtful. But, like most new writers, I’ve been pretty intimidated by her. But when I met her, things changed for three major reasons: 1) She’s far shorter than I thought, and that was in heels. 2) She is funny and has a fabulous laugh. 3), I got to meet her mother, who, since she’s a librarian was attending the event. My editor went from presence to person. Very cool person. We ended up having the most reassuring conversation I’ve ever had about BIDDEN, the second book, which ended with my editor saying those words everyone likes to hear… “I trust you.” Phew!
When we got to the party, I was ready to enter the land of the surreal, for sure. I felt it going up the elevator while Jame Richards talked about the ghost stories about the Omni Parker Hotel. But then, my editor handed me my book. Not a manuscript, not an ARC, but my actual book. Split, in the flesh, so to speak. With thick pages and a shiny jacket and the heft of a real book. I grabbed a copy and hung on to it for the rest of the night. The experience should have been surreal, with people coming up to me asking me about Split, asking me to sign Split (and in a totally rookie move, signed the first copy of the wrong page) and my editor making a quick speech, complimenting Split. But it wasn’t. With the book in my hand, it was the most grounded, I have felt in the last eighteen months.