When I had my first short story published four years ago, I thought, This is it. This is all I have ever dreamed of. I can now die happy as a writer. Then I had my second story published, and I felt, Well, good for you, two stories published is certainly better than one. Then some agents read it and liked it enough to contact me to see if I had a novel hanging around. When I said I did, that's when everything began to change.
I went to New York to meet with agents, and when I did, I thought, This is it. This is all I have ever dreamed of. I went to New York to meet with agents. Just saying it made me proud, made me feel like a writer. And I thought, No one can ever take that away from me, even if nothing comes of it. I will always have gone to New York to meet with agents. Then, three of the agents I met with wanted to sign me. So then, out of the blue -- and after years of work, too -- I had an agent. I had an agent. And then that was it. That was all I needed to be happy.
Yet I was starting to feel like the little boy in The Giving Tree - every time I thought I was happy, something else came along and I wanted that, too. Everything that I had once pictured as being unobtainable now seemed to be within reach. But every time I passed a hurdle, I'd think, "Well, great, but I won't pass the next hurdle."
Finally, what I thought of as the holy grail happened: my agent sold my novel to Random House. I was in Big Sur with my boyfriend (now my husband) at the time, having a romantic weekend, when my agent called to tell me Random House had made an offer. When she called, we were in a dead zone for cell service, so I couldn't answer her call. We quickly left the little gift shop we'd been perusing after lunch and careened along the curves of Highway 1, looking for a place where I could get service. Finally, my boyfriend pulled over. I played her message on speakerphone. My boyfriend and I looked at each other with mouths open. I called her back. I said, Great! I'm thrilled! How exciting! She said she'd call me back when it was final. Three days later, she did. It was final. We had a deal. And I really was happy.
Then, the whirlwind that precedes publication of a first novel: meeting my wonderful editor, the editing, the line editing, the copyediting, the throwing out of my original title (Do You Know Who I Am), the choosing of the new title (Love or Something Like It - so much better), the choosing of the cover, learning the in-house reaction, meeting my publicist, the throwing out of the cover and the choosing of a new cover, going to New York for a publicity lunch with the press--every step of the way feeling out of my comfort zone, yet knowing that I could not just step back and disengage and let others handle it. Knowing that even though I know nothing about publishing, even though almost every stage sends me scurrying to Google to find the meaning of an unfamilar publishing term, I am my book's best advocate. I am the person who understands the novel best. I am on the most intimate terms with the characters, the plot, the style, the setting, the tone. I am the person who can speak with the most authority about the book. Yet all these other people have jobs to do, and they do them very well, calmly going about their work, sometimes asking me questions or sending me things to review or approve or consider.
Finally, everything is done. And then, nothing. Just waiting. My novel sold in November of 2007 - almost a year ago - and it won't be published until April 14, 2009 - almost six months from now. As I wait, I remain slightly anxious, slightly suspicious of my own success. Will it really happen? Even after all the hurdles I've passed, will I really pass this one? I am - still - skeptical. Because despite what I have tried to tell myself, despite all the times I have said that I am happy just having come this far, I know the truth: the real holy grail, the dream of all dreams, comes on April 14, 2009, when I can walk down to my local bookstore and buy my book.
Causes Deirdre Shaw Supports
Planned Parenthood, Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, Los Angeles Library Foundation