Two weeks ago, my life exploded.
But I’m starting to come back to myself.
It’s been happening in bits and pieces, day by day this past week, as I felt the need to check my email less intensely, as I was more productive and focused at my day job, as I got back to my natural rhythms, the old, boring ones that are just for me. As I went days without opening my spreadsheet, the one that lists all the details of what a dream coming true looks like. This spreadsheet is full of strikethroughs and highlights, names and dates and details. Literary agents: ones who have my book, ones who decided to pass on my book, ones who are still reading, ones who have made offers of representation. Who want to sell my book. Who care about building my career. A career I have wanted since I was old enough to read. A career that suddenly feels scary and strange, now that it is on my doorstep. I keep thinking it must just be a hastily delivered Amazon package, waiting at the wrong house.
I felt it most intensely this weekend, the coming back to myself. Closing the door on the misdelivered package, letting it sit outside for a while. I will likely have to open it, and soon, but it feels good to ignore it for a while, to remember what my own skin feels like, the solidness of my own bones. It’s comforting, this resettling, while a little lonely at the same time. I’ve lived through months of this intense creative thing that was as deeply personal as it was social, and I might always miss the collective adrenaline of it all. My memory will likely erase how unhinged I felt for a lot of it, how bad I often was at balancing this endeavor on top of everything I already balanced poorly.
Publishing is a slow, heartbreaking industry, but I just finished a program that throws you into it—if you are lucky, and I just happened to be lucky—at breakneck speed. This means that while most people wait months and years for their manuscripts to receive attention, at this end of this week, once I make a final decision, I will have a literary agent. Less than six months after I finished the first draft. My book will go “on sub” to editors soon thereafter. Maybe some of them will like it. I don’t know.
That’s what I’ve learned in all this, I think. Being okay with I don’t know. I’ve reached this level of zen that is full of both hope and loss. Hope that maybe Dahlia and London will get into the world some day. For real. Loss, because Dahlia and London don’t belong to me anymore.
They probably didn’t belong to me the moment I submitted them to Pitch Wars a few months ago, but once they got into agents’ hands, they were really gone. I felt this weird sense of disassociation talking about my book with agents these past two weeks, like I had forgotten what this story was even about, like I had blocked out ever writing it at all.
This sense of disassociation is essential, in a way. It allowed me to absorb feedback about my book from thirty different directions at once the last two weeks. To filter through the feedback that made sense, the feedback I could let go. You can’t actually get a book published that you’re too close to, I think. Because you have to be ready to watch your book get beat up. You have to maintain control of the blows, of the exact hit of the upper cuts, make sure its face doesn’t turn completely unrecognizable. But I’m okay with Dahlia and London being beat up now. I sat in coffeeshops for hours upon hours making this brilliant mess of a girl and this sensitive non-binary wonder and now they’re out of my hands.
And what’s letting me return to my body is realizing how unimportant it all is in the scheme of things. That spreadsheet seized my entire being for a long weekend that felt like a year. It’s possible there will be more explosions, more seizures if key players who still have my book make last minute offers this week. They very possibly won’t. I don’t know. I’ll have a decision by Friday either way, and it’s going to suck, telling very qualified people who spent a lot of their time and unpaid labor thinking about my book, that I’ve decided to go with someone else. But you know what? They’ll get over it. Because I’m not that important. I’m just a person. This book is just a book. Agents are just people; editors are just people. Life is a weird collision course of luck and hard work and we’re all just doing the best we can.
What matters are stories. The best part of Pitch Wars was learning other people’s stories, people from around the world I never would have met without it, and they are all funny and real and smart and important and I want to keep knowing them. I’m ready to let myself relax enough to pick up books and TV series and movies, stop thinking about my own damn book and absorb other stories again, my favorite feeling in the world.
And when Dahlia and London sit in the inboxes of Big 5 editors, out there in the world on their own, I’ll try to remember how to make a new story. I’ll get back to the coffeeshops, the hours and hours where it’s just old, boring me, trying to squeeze loneliness and love into words again.
My new story is about two men named Alexei Lebedev of Portland, Oregon and Benedito Caravalho of Nashville, Tennessee. Lex and Ben, for short. They meet in Idyllwild, California, at a cafe full of hikers taking a rest from the nearby Pacific Crest Trail. Alexei doesn’t know yet, that he’s actually Lex, but Ben will show him shortly.
And right now, Lex and Ben are all mine. I hope to tell you more about them soon.