When I was young, some ridiculous age like, say, five or twenty nine or something, I suddenly conceived of books as objects, that were created. They were wonderful stories full of magic and wonder and whatever the fuck, yes, true, but—someone made those stories. Someone thought up those stories and wrote them down and other people, then, were able to read those stories. It was a kind of miracle, a book. That someone’s story could exist apart, have a place in the world, be real and tangible and permanent. It was awesome.
I made the leap at some point not too long afterwards—someone could tell a story, right? Well, you know what, buddy? That someone could be me.
I was still fuzzy on the details—how you went from Here is my story! to Here is my book! How it goes from being just yours to belonging to anyone. How did it happen? Where did you go? Who did you talk to? Did you put torn-out, jam-printed notebook pages under your pillow one night where the book fairy would find them and make them important and permanent and forever? I didn’t worry too much about it. I figured it would happen, because I made stories, and stories became books, and books were awesome and someday I would have one.
There has never been a point, ever, where I have quite relinquished that idea. The conviction, kind of. Quiet and small, in the back of my head, but catching the light, every once in a while, a glinty little beam. Even when I gave up writing in disgust, even when I couldn’t write, even when I didn’t want to write, even when it had been years and years since I had written a sentence. That was okay, because someday, I would have a book. And even as an adult, I remained pretty fuzzy on the details, but was really holding out for the book fairy.
At some point, I took up writing again, and I got an MFA in creative writing, even. And at some point during my MFA career, they had sat us down and took our hands tenderly in theirs, and in a gentle voice, had kindly explained that the book fairy did not exist. Instead, there were things like Publishing Houses, and Editors and Agents, Book Deals and Query Letters, Book Proposals and Soaring Dreams, Heartache and Rejection. Just because you had written a book, it turned out, didn’t mean that you were going to have a book. As had countless writers before me, I clapped my hands over my ears and I rushed from the room sobbing, my sack of skin jingling bloodily with the broken shards of my conviction.
So much work and effort and luck and hope and rejection to get an agent, who would only be the first step towards finding an editor who would only be the next step towards convincing a publishing house to let you make a book. Too much work, too hard, so unlikely.
I tried anyway, because I am stupid.
I queried agents, because that is what you do. I got turned down, and down, and down, and I was not surprised. I was vindicated! I told you! Too hard.
And then one day I found myself with a handful of dizzying emails from dizzying people. And then soon after, I stood at the window in my living room, looking out at the mountains and the highway and hoping those agents, the wonderful ones who had been on the top of my wishlist and who were far away in New York telling me that they wanted to be mine, they couldn’t hear in my voice how I had just almost dropped the phone and burst into violent tears. I remained calm, and professional, and not at all psychotic, mostly. Then I hung up the phone and dropped on the couch and waited to burst into tears because you know, maybe it’s true that someday I really will have a book.