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A Book Launch, and A Life Revisited
Launching a book series for the second time with a larger press after issues with a small press has felt like trying to get remarried and being afraid to celebrate again with people. They already showed up the first time. Been there, done that, already gave a gift, moving on. I know I’m projecting, and this isn’t how they actually feel. They’re happy for me.
There’s also a part of me that doesn’t want the series to fail when it’s getting a rare second chance, so if I lay low…maybe no one will notice? But that’s silly because I need them to notice so it doesn’t fail. Hello, paradox.
The good news about publishing the same series again is that I have experience this time around. And one thing I learned was to let go of the need to control sales. My job is to write, edit, and promote when I can. My full-time job is teaching high school. At this point, teaching pays the bills. The publisher’s job is to design, market, print, and sell books.
Can I be honest? Here’s a metaphor for you. Publishing a debut book is like having sex for the first time. You are like OH My GOD so many EXPECTATIONS and WHAT IFS and PREPARATIONS and QUESTIONS…
So publishing a book for the second time is like (cue Marvin Gaye) “Let’s Get It On!” In other words, way more enjoyable and less stressful.
Before the book signing yesterday, I listened to a four-minute guided meditation on Headspace titled “You are Awesome.” Funny title, but in all seriousness, it helped me set a tone for the event. I’m a teacher. I know how to perform for an audience even though I’m an introvert-extrovert. The meditation prompted me to breathe deeply while thinking of specific adjectives, then envisioning myself at the event as calm, confident, experienced, and friendly. And you know something—it worked. Much better than pacing around waiting for the event to start.
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The book signing was small as I expected, but successful enough, selling 3/4 of the books there. However, I found myself really missing my mother during the whole thing.
(cue the flashback)
My relationship with my mother was probably one of the most complicated things on the planet. When I was nine, I started writing to express my feelings about my mother that were too complex. I needed poetry to sort them out. I continued writing to escape dysfunction and always remember who I was. Eventually, I grew to enjoy it as a creative expression of story rather than a sole mirror of the self.
Back in 2015, when I called my mother and told her the news that my book was being published by a small press, she was over the moon thrilled for me. Then after reflecting, she added, “You know, I feel a huge sense of relief. I’m so glad all my shit didn’t ruin your life.”
The silence hung between us on the phone. I couldn’t argue with the truth, but it also made me sad that she acknowledged it. It showed me another layer of the burden of trauma that she was holding. What I couldn’t articulate at the time was that I became a writer partly because of the shit in her life that bled into mine. Hello, irony. We either make lemons out of lemonade or drown in the bitterness.
She came to my crowded debut book launch party back in 2016, super happy and cheering me on. She died of lung cancer in June 2020, and we could barely give her a funeral due to Covid concerns and finances. We buried her ashes in the mountains of New Hampshire, a place she liked to go to destress.
Fast forward to yesterday, and getting a rare second chance to publish the same series, a time travel series of all things. It’s like I’ve gone back to 2016, except she’s not here this time to see the next level of success. This time, unbeknownst to them, my new publisher released my book on the third anniversary of her death.
One of her best friends reached out to me on Facebook and posted this picture of her at my debut launch party back in April 2016. For some cosmic reason, it popped up in her memories feed. My mother had been so thrilled that day she wore a red sweatshirt to match the cover of the book and was obnoxiously taking pictures of all the guests without asking them permission.
I printed and hung the photo in my writing office yesterday. I haven’t been able to look at any photos of her since 2020. This one, though, finally resonated. Despite all the trauma in her life, despite distancing myself from her often so I could survive, she was one of my biggest cheerleaders.
And I’ve missed her joy and laughter.
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