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It’s been a wild week me and my debut novel, Oil and Marble.
I did my first radio interview for KCUR’s Central Standard in Kansas City where we discussed Leonardo da Vinci and whether it’s possible to be a Renaissance Man or Woman in today’s world (I say yes; I believe we are living in a time ripe for a new Renaissance — you’ll have to listen to the radio interview to find out why).
I also spoke to 80 brilliantly engaged 6th graders at Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School. They were eager and thoughtful and their chaotic curiosity inspired me to engage more fully in my own life and work. They asked questions about the artistic process, publishing industry, and Italy that were far more advanced than anything I asked at their age. Teaching those kids — any kids — is a JOY for me.
The other thing that happened this week is so big I’m not sure I’m ready to write about it. But before today, I always wondered what it would feel like to become a novelist, so I’ll do my best to express myself while I’m still in the midst of it…
My novel’s publication date is not until March 1st. But books arrived at the warehouse, so were shipped to Amazon and… out they went. To the world.
It still won’t be in stores until March 1st, but… it’s out there. Now.
As friends and family sent me their “your order has shipped!” notices, I was frantically calling my publisher because I still hadn’t received my copies. There was a mix-up at the warehouse. My author copies had not shipped. Was it really possible that strangers were going to see and hold my book before I did?
I freaked out. I wanted my book so badly.
Then, I started getting notes from friends, family and some fans I’ve never met that they had received my novel. They were opening boxes. Holding my book. Reading it…
The first time I saw a copy was via my cousin’s Facebook feed. Then another post from one of my nearest and dearest in Dallas. A couple of pictures from DC. A text from Virginia. One friend said, “this is getting redundant…” But there they were. From all over the country…
One friend even MADE A VIDEO of opening up the box and flipping through the pages — I gasped and cried and had chills like I was opening that box myself…
Then, I got word that people in my own city of Los Angeles were receiving copies. My book was in my city — JUST DOWN THE STREET — but I still didn’t have it…?!
Then I realized this was all happening exactly as it should.
I don’t need a copy… I’ve already read it. Besides, it’s not my book anymore, is it? It’s not about me — and it never was. It’s about a guy named Leonardo da Vinci and another fellow named Michelangelo. It’s about Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, David, Niccolo Machiavelli, the city of Florence and…
You. It’s about YOU, dear reader. It’s your book now. Not mine.
“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”
– Ursula K Le Guin
So, it’s official. Oil and Marble a live real thing — it’s out there in the world, having a life of its own. And me holding it — or not — doesn’t make a bit of difference.
Last night, during an intense CoreRestore yoga class, I started to cry.
I’ve been holding back for so long. Every step along the way — signing with an agent, making a deal with a publishing house, getting a publishing date, receiving advanced reading copies, reading my first review — was followed by a tensing reserve in my gut:
Don’t celebrate yet! It could all fall apart! My editor could leave!
The publishing house could fold! The world could end!
But last night, it dawned on me — there is nothing left to wait for. No reason to hold my breath. The book has been printed. People have bought it and are reading it…
Yes there’s still more work to do — I have books to sell and reviews to get and events to schedule — but for me this is the top of the mountain. This was always the goal. This moment, right now, as other people crack the spine of that novel and read… Anything else is extra.
So keep sending me pictures of receiving and opening Oil and Marble. They aren’t redundant. They are the moment.