Book News and a Funny Story
Well, friends, where to start?
It’s been an emotional week. Sunday is the 1-year anniversary of my dad’s death. The rain this morning seems appropriate, so does the cold front moving in tonight. It’ll make it easier to bury myself under a pile of blankets and indulge in my favorite comfort foods.
I also received exciting book mail, page proofs with illustrations, from Candlewick Press for my picture book LOVE IS POWERFUL releasing Fall 2020. To see my words come to life through the vision of a creative and talented illustrator like LeUyen Pham is an incredible experience. Candlewick is a dream publisher and LeUyen Pham is such an accomplished artist—it’s surreal and thrilling to be a part of this phenomenal team.
This week we—friends Miranda, Emily, and I—officially launched WOMEN READING WITH CATS: A COLORING BOOK FOR BOOK LOVERS into the world. A year and a half-long project that involved weekend meetings at Creston Brewery, drawing a lot of cats (and I mean a lot of them), and launching our own publisher—Bracket Publishing.
These three things are deeply connected. Today, the day I saw page proofs for LOVE IS POWERFUL for the first time, it seems appropriate to share a story with you.
For writers, signing the first contract with a publisher is a big deal. The work involved—often years of it—is not for the faint of heart. It’s late nights and weekends spent writing, studying, reading, drafting, and rewriting. It’s the Iditarod. It’s climbing Everest. Writing to be published is an endurance sport, it demands perseverance. It’s why so many authors share photos of themselves signing the contract—it’s staking the flag on the peak.
After signing with Candlewick, I walked a foot above the ground. I wore a perma-smile. I did what any good New Author would do, I took my son to the bookstore to walk amongst the tomes of what would one day, for real, be my peers. It felt a lot like walking down Michigan Ave the day after I finished the Chicago Marathon. I looked for the trinkets in the crowd, the little glittering medals like stars that identified the other runners also playing tourist and walking gingerly on brittle legs. We’d see each other and smile, maybe wave. We had suffered through something together. We’d made it! We survived! We’d crossed over from runners to marathoners. For the first time, I walked into that bookstore not as a writer, but as an author.
We are regular visitors to that bookstore. I often take the kids on the weekend, they get a small allowance for a new book, I get a cup of coffee, we sit in the cafe and read—all for a price less than going to a movie. So, when my son and I walked into the children’s section, the bookseller smiled, she knew who we were though she didn’t know our names. My stomach fluttered a little imagining her one day placing my book in the palm of a young reader as she had done so many times for my children.
My son, who used to adore me to the point of embarrassment, walked straight up to the bookseller, shoulders taught with pride. I knew what he was about to do and I was kind of shy about it, but also thought, what the heck, why not?
“My mom wrote a book!” He practically shouted.
The bookseller glanced at me nervously. I’m sure you know that look, the one that’s kind of like a trapped animal. The same look someone might get when their eccentric aunt makes a bee-line for them at the family reunion. I work in publishing so I know how it goes. Everyone has an unfinished manuscript or a novel they’ve been thinking about writing. I actually love that we all have stories in us and that we are imaginative and creative and are inspired—but, it can be a bit overwhelming too. Especially when you have work to do, as this bookseller did.
I might have squeed a little inside with anticipation for what my son would reveal next. A book with Candlewick is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe she’d ask me to do an event? Maybe they’d host a book launch party for me?!? For this brief moment, I was suspended to great heights by my own ego. I couldn’t wait to see the shift in the bookseller’s expression.
“It has CATS IN IT!”
Oh no . . . no . . nonononono.
“LOTS OF CATS.”
The bookseller’s eyebrows rose to the top of her forehead in a mortified expression. I tried to gauge if anyone would call CPS if I covered his mouth and dragged him away. He was too big to hoist over my shoulder.
“IT’S A COLORING BOOK!” He brimmed.
It was too late. My ticket had been punched. There was nothing left to do but smile awkwardly.
“Well, isn’t that’s nice,” she said, which is the midwestern version of the South’s “Bless your heart.”
I decided to save us both from further embarrassment with a simple “thanks,” grabbed my son’s hand, and scurried away to the cafe for hot chocolates with extra whip cream for which to hide my red face behind.
Friends, I wrote a book. It has cats in it. Lots of cats. It’s a coloring book. I’m actually kind of proud of it and I hope that it brightens a lot of people’s days. If you buy one, please consider leaving a review!
I see a lot of my dad in my son. My dad was also embarrassingly proud of me to the point of mortification at times. Like when he dragged a stranger across the parking lot just to show them one of my books. Dad. Ugh. I love you, but really?
Everyone should be so lucky to have a dad like mine was.
Drawing cats—as odd of a sentence this is to write—became a therapeutic practice for me. It helped me work through the grief of losing my dad. It was quiet, thoughtful, and contemplative. The coloring book also has wit and sarcasm to it—working on it with Emily and Miranda meant a lot of laughing. In moments of grief, laughter is nourishment. It nudges life from dry ground.
It is a gift for me to share this book with you. My dad, I know, would be right next to my son, both of them brimming with pride over a cat coloring book of all things.
Have a great weekend.