I tend to think of things collectively, you know. Whole periods of time sort of rapidly smoosh into one big moment for me. This is why I kept a diary as a small girl and partially why three and half years ago I started to blog. Even though I don't write down everything that happens (thank God, right?), I find that my memories are triggered by the small pieces that I do choose to memorialize. Sometimes I read something I wrote two years ago and I immediately and clearly remember what was really going on that day. What I decided not to say.
This weekend I went to Kentucky to the SOKY Book Fest. It was pretty amazing.
It was amazing for all the reasons I didn't expect it to be amazing, though. I thought it would be amazing to sell a lot of books and maybe pick up a few more blog readers or friends on The Facebook (Mitch and Marsha...HOLLA!). I thought it would be super cool to see my cousin (it was). I thought maybe I'd attend some workshops and maybe, just maybe, learn something.
On Saturday night I had the pleasure of having dinner with my wonderful cousin (who came all the way from Michigan to Kentucky by way of the "worst road trip of all time"), my friend Lauretta Hannon and two new author friends Jessica Handler and Amanda Gable. I am uncool enough to admit in a public forum that the thought of having dinner with them scared me. Badly. Not badly enough to say no, but still. Badly.
Because they are writers. And I, one year, two months, and seventeen days into having a book, still feel like a fraud.
For me, writing a book has been a profoundly isolating experience. It sounds lame to say "people just don't understand", but honestly? People just don't understand. It doesn't mean they aren't sympathetic or kind. Most of them are. But honestly, it's one of those situations that you can't really understand unless you've been there. Unless you've lived it.
I've been living it. And despite the fact that I go and glad-hand people on a regular basis about it, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world to me. I'm not a major author, even in Bowling Green, Kentucky (and I mean no offense to the city of Bowling Green or the State of Kentucky and it's citizens, all of which are extraordinarily lovely). I am a regular person, with a day job, not an author.
I'm just a girl with a book.
Sitting at that table on Saturday night, however, I felt less alone. Not just because the other ladies write. Because we talked about what to write next, and how we struggle with what you do after the first book. How we don't quite know what to charge for giving talks and whether or not you take every single public event you are offered, even if it's talking to a class of third graders in Savannah. How certain events really blow and how authors sometimes get treated like pretty, pretty Princesses and sometimes like scum on the bottoms of shoes. How very sucky it feels to get a bad review, no matter where it comes from (but especially when it's a family member).
I didn't know other people felt this same way. I didn't know I wasn't the only person alive who has struggled with this. I assumed, stupidly, that amazing writers like these women would never have the same issues as a small-time girl like me. I assumed I was the only one wondering if I was doing the right things. If I should be working on the next book instead of shaking hands and wishing I sold more books. That even the most amazing writers have moments of "what next?" and it's totally okay that I do too.
It was the most comforting experience. It was really, really lovely.
And they were friggin' hilarious. So there was that.
Overall? A most satisfying experience. I came home completely refreshed and now all I want to do is write. And that, friends, is a beautiful thing. Even if my writing isn't.