I recently went to Deborah Underwood‘s launch party for THE LOUD BOOK, which was great fun. Deborah’s funny and warm and awesome, as you’d expect an EMLA client to be, and I also got to hang out with writer pal and SCBWI organizer Keely Parrack, who recently booked me for my first-ever SCBWI speaking engagement on May 28! Woohoo! I bring that up not just to shamelessly plug the event, but also to use it as an example of an increasingly frequent thing: activities I get to plan on doing in, you know, real life.
I know what you’re thinking – “Mike, you’re such a grizzled veteran of the publishing world! You have such VAST experience, oh bearded one!” First of all, I have no beard – I’m not into the scraggly goatee thing, which is all I’m capable of growing. Second, the grotesque sense of arrogance and entitlement I project is born of insecurity, not experience. The whole “fantasizing about all the cool stuff I get to do when I have a book deal” thing is, shockingly, a thing of the past! I can actually PLAN that stuff now!
It’s nice to have some stuff on the docket that’s closer to pure, giggly fun than the editorial process. Don’t get me wrong, the process of writing and editing the book is far and away the most meaningful part of this adventure – it’s what it’s all about, you know – but I’m not one to discount the value of the goofy and fun parts, because you need a counterpoint to the stuff that’s demanding and labor-intensive and rigorous. All work and no play makes Mike a crabby and unpleasant guy to be stuck in a room with. I know I’m not the only one who’s spent time composing my acknowledgments page, daydreaming about my launch party, and thinking about what kind of snappy-but-related-to-my-book tagline to use when signing autographs for the teeming masses of 7 or 8 people who show up at my promotional events. (Have you seen this article from The Onion, by the way?)
So there I was at Deborah’s launch party, forcing her to sign 122 copies of THE LOUD BOOK for assorted children (and one QUIET BOOK for me), chowing down on cake, looking around the confines of the Berkeley bookstore Mrs. Dalloway’s, and I had one of those moments that’s really not profound enough to be described as an epiphany but is still pretty cool. The following thought leaped into my head, flailing and gibbering:
Dude, I think I wanna have MY launch party here!
It was cool because it was the first time I’d been to a real launch party since signing my contract with Arthur A. Levine Books, which meant it was the first time I’d been in that situation knowing that I’ll definitely have a launch party for my book. Good stuff, you know? And then I had a fun moment that clinched the reality of it for me. The children’s buyer (a very pleasant woman whose name I’ve regrettably forgotten already but who was an excellent host) passed by to deliver a piece of cake to my wife, who was carrying our gargantuan infant son (seriously, the kid’s a moose). During the ensuing chat the buyer asked if I had some connection to the author.
“We’re represented by the same literary agency!” I said, trying not to sound like a chest-pounding nincompoop and probably failing. We went on to discuss my upcoming book (too far in the future for that buyer to keep in mind, I’m sure, but she was very gracious about it all), and she expressed her enthusiasm for hosting my launch party when the time arrived, and oh, it was great. It was great, and fun, and unexpected, and REAL. I’d had conversations like that before, at other bookstores, but those were all about “I want” and “I hope” and even “I wish,” but this one was all about “I WILL. I definitely and unequivocally WILL have a launch party.”
I also WILL write an acknowledgments page! And I WILL come up with an autograph strategy! And I WILL do more SCBWI events, especially for my very dear friends in Kansas, who feel betrayed that my first speaking engagement is in California! And I WILL play the ukelele at my launch party! Well, okay, I MIGHT play the uke – I’m out of practice, sad to say. Maybe I’ll finally get the damage to my Larrivee fixed and play a little guitar instead? I’m a crappy instrumentalist, but ehh, people are gonna be there for my writing, so they won’t care…
Fun times! I seem to have recovered from my post-revision state of terror, which is good because really, that was just irritating. I’m looking forward to the next round in the same kind of complex, buzzy, adrenalized, fight-or-flight state of mind I had after I received my editorial letter. But I’m glad I have these more lighthearted things to look forward to as well. There’s value in the lighthearted stuff! Throwing a launch party for your debut novel? Gold, babies. More precious than gold.