On the Publication of My First Novel
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” —Enid Bagnold
Today is the day that The Ethan I Was Before finally arrives in the world as my debut novel! And last night I found myself thinking: how many times in life will I get to experience my first book being published? Answer: Just this once. So I thought it fitting to take some time to reflect on what this momentous day feels like. It’s something I’ve always wondered about, and something I will probably always want to savor. So here goes. Brace yourself for all the feelings.
First of all, I feel enormously grateful. And yes, I know that’s what you’re expected to say in situations like these, but that is truly my overwhelming feeling at present. I am simply inexpressibly thankful for the many, many people and communities of people who have nurtured me and my love for writing (See acknowledgement page for full details!). For the support Ethan has gotten from family, friends, and total strangers alike. For being given this wild chance to fling my voice out into the world and have it be heard.
Next: Lucky. Is luck really something you can feel? Normally I would probably say no, but today I’m going to go with yes! No matter how talented you are or how hard you work, there is always an element of luck intrinsic to this business (and probably any business?). I was lucky to be born into a family that appreciated the power of stories and the written word and privileged to attend schools and camps where I could study under incredible mentors and alongside supportive peers. I was lucky to work with some extraordinary young people, who provided the impetus to write this book, and to have had the space and time I needed to write it. I was lucky to find agents and editors who understood my vision for the book and helped me achieve it. The list could go on ad infinitum.
And then: Proud. We (and particularly we ladyfolk) are often taught not to express this one too publicly. But today I am enormously proud and not afraid to say it. I am proud that I made a great flower out of life. That I didn’t give up on this dream that so often seemed impossible. I am proud of myself for writing the many manuscripts (stretching in a long, obscure line all the way back to the seventh grade) that came before this one, and that needed to be written (though not necessarily read…) for me to write Ethan. And I am proud of my family and friends for sticking out this decades-long journey with me.
With a generous serving of: Humble. Since getting my book deal, I have rubbed shoulders with many children’s authors and aspiring authors. I have been blown away by their wild amounts of talent (and particularly the talent of the other 2017 debuting authors!) and by their grace and wisdom. I have been humbled by their warm support, and inspired to count myself as one of their number.
And, to be honest, also: Anxious. Anxiety, I have learned, is a writer’s constant bedfellow. Now that the book is out in the world, I worry about how it will be received by its readers. About if my next book will be as impactful. About the well of inspiration running dry. About how attitudes towards reading and funding for libraries and literacy initiatives may be shifting in our current sociopolitical landscape. Which brings me to…
Responsible. I feel responsible for using whatever platform I am afforded to speak out against injustice and intolerance. To advocate for the rights of all children to have access to a diverse range of quality literature and an equitable, hopeful future. Responsible for writing books that teach children kindness, empathy, and acceptance, that model agency and encourage critical thinking. Responsible for giving back to the communities that helped shape me into the writer I am now.
And finally: EXCITED!!! Because I WROTE A BOOK! And because today it was PUBLISHED! Which means I have achieved one of my biggest dreams in life. And I’m excited for what’s next. I can’t wait to start connecting with young readers in schools and events. I am working on some projects that I love deeply and hope will follow Ethan out into the world. I am doing what I always dreamed I would get the chance to do in life.
And I hope this is just the beginning.