Call me author?
There are pivotal moments that we allow to define us in life if we let them. For example, I became a mother the moment I saw those two lines on that pee stick. But I didn't feel like one until I spent more than a day trying to evict Eliza from my uterus and finally got to hold her in my arms. Some of these labels we give ourselves are stickier than others, meaning they stand out and we can mark the date. We know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we were branded.
On Saturday, I officially felt like an author. Through my book distributor, Ingram Publisher Services, I held a signing at the American Library Association's Annual Conference. Not only was it my first signing, but it felt like the big leagues, as if I had somehow been called up from the minors just recently and was already playing in the World Series. Everything about the conference felt so official. The Washington Convention Center is gigantic, and the subterranean exhibit hall spans two city blocks. All the big publishers were there, like HarperCollins, Disney Publishing, and Scholastic. Hundreds of other publishers were also exhibiting their offerings and showing off or introducing their authors.I couldn't believe that out of all the publishers, and thus authors, that Ingram represents, it chose me for a signing slot. Sometimes we are reluctant to give ourselves labels because even though they are accurate and true, it takes us some time to believe them for ourselves. (Ingram also picked The Beautiful List cover image as its Fall Children's Catalog background, which was also hard to believe.)
I settled into my seat for the signing, and Amber from my publisher, Morgan James, stood in the aisle next to me holding my book and encouraging passers-by to come get a signed copy. I was so excited for each and every person who approached, telling them about why I wrote the book (to encourage all tween girls to embrace their innate worth and beauty) and asking how they wanted me to sign it: a note? just my signature? made out to someone in particular? At one point there was a line of maybe four or five people and I felt pressure to move more quickly and write faster. As I handed a signed book over to each visitor, I said, "As a new author, reviews are super important, so if you love the book, and even if you don't, please post a review somewhere!" Eventually after saying this several times, I mentioned to Jo, the Ingram rep who was standing by, that maybe I shouldn't say that I welcomed bad reviews. She said, "Yeah, don't say that." Whoops! I really am figuring this out as I go.
At 2:57 I ran out of books. I'm not even sure how many there were - maybe about 40 total - but I was amazed that I managed to send off that many of my babies into the world to go with their new owners on their own adventures, either to entertain, encourage, collect dust, get lost, or even be discarded.
I then spent my time wandering the exhibit hall looking for connections I needed to make. While I meandered, I held a copy of my book right at chest level, facing out at everyone who walked by. I knew I probably looked strange, but I viewed it as an opportunity to get my cover in front of the eyes of as many librarians and book lovers as possible. As I stumbled upon the School Library Journal table, I slowed down, thinking through whether I should approach the woman behind the table. Having SLJ review my book would be a HUGE boost for it. I had already submitted my book for review, but SLJ receives so many thousands of books for review that you generally send yours in and assume you'll never hear anything. As I paused and the wheels in my head spun, the woman noticed me and said something like, "Can I help you?" Or maybe it was, "What are you doing?" because again, I was displaying my book like I was Vanna White.
I told her I was advertising it as I walked around, and that began a several-minute long conversation where I completely overshared as I'm known to do, but she was content to oblige. She was fascinated by both the idea behind the book and how I was able to get it published. She congratulated me, took a picture of the cover and my business card, and reassured me that she would be sure my book was on the editorial group's radar for review. I then gave her a copy of the book. Perhaps more than my interactions at my book signing, this might have been the most valuable of the event. There's no way to know.
Everywhere I turned, other authors, librarians, and publishers were so congratulatory. It made me feel a little bit special to have all these people in the industry affirm how cool it was that I was being published. I told my closest friends, my mom, my kids and my husband that before Saturday, I was this person who happened to write a book. But that after I went to the ALAAC, it felt like I was an author. Like I can bonafide call myself one now, even if my book doesn't officially publish until October 4th.
Don't worry, I'm not going to let it get to my head. Because another label I carry - my main one - is child of God. Nothing I do means anything unless it points to Him and gives Him credit for his design and purpose in making me. That's what the book - and all my writing - are all about.