When I was four years old, I was entranced by Annie and her Daddy Warbucks world. My mom bought me an Annie wig, I dressed like her, and I staged musical numbers in the living room of our house in Greenville, South Carolina. Anyone who came over--babysitter, aunt, parents' friends, the mailman--was subject to a performance.
It didn't matter that I was Annie's opposite: Southern, very much NOT an orphan, freckle-free, with blindingly white-blonde hair. When I put on that wig and belted out "Tomorrow," I was Annie.
The kid even inspires FDR. She's amazing!
The reason I'm channeling Annie is this: as most of you know, my very first novel, Keowee Valley, comes out tomorrow. I dreamed the impetus and details of the novel for years before I put it to paper. I researched for six months and wrote and rewrote for another year and a half. I queried literary agents for about four months (we're talking pages and pages of printer paper, stamps galore, and, finally, four offers of representation amid the nearly 200 rejection letters). The nail-biting decision on which agent to choose. Then, the agony of waiting to find a publisher ... three years of it. And, finally, an offer from a publisher I've come to thoroughly like and admire. Another year plus until publication.
Anyone want to count the years from writing to publication? I wouldn't. It's terrifying.
But tomorrow, my novel will be published.
When I say it's hard to believe, I'm not making it up. Lately, I've existed in a state of numbness, hardly believing it to be real. I've pushed aside any excitement in order to simply deal with the myriad details of my busy life.
And, if I'm honest with myself, the thought of people--strangers and those I know and love--reading Keowee Valley makes the nerves jump beneath my skin.
I know, of course, there will be some readers who love it. Most likely my mom. Okay, hopefully more than just my mom.
There will be some readers who simply like it, or feel neither this way nor that about the story. There may be even some who expected more from me, and didn't get it.
And then, there'll be those who hate it. Who think that I can't write my way out of a paper bag.
Those will sting. Ain't gonna lie. And I've never had the thickest skin. But I hope--I plan--to be like the turtle, and let the water (and the negativity) just roll off my back.
My graduate advisor at the Vermont College of Fine Arts this semester, the incomparable Connie May Fowler (How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Before Women had Wings), told me this about bad reviews in a recent letter. I don't think she'd mind me sharing:
Do not allow small, inconsequential things to mar your joy over this success. The publication of your novel is an achievement NO ONE can take away from you. It’s a monumental achievement and it will cast a love-shine on all the days of your life. So glory in it!
I love her.
And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the sun'll come out tomorrow, the day of my publication. And it'll be good.
Bet your bottom dollar!