“You look happy,” said Michael Fiore after my very first book signing.
“I am. I’m trying to let myself feel happy and not undermine it,” I answered.
“Looks good on ya,” he replied.
Now, Michael has known me a long time. He knows I worry about the bird flu, flat tires, getting lost, being a good parent, eating too much ice cream, having frizzy hair, being an interesting teacher, and on and on.
If you only know me from pictures, you see I smile big. If you know me a little, you know I laugh a lot. If you know me well, you know that I worry. And laugh. Worry. Laugh. Worry. Laugh. It’s exhausting.
Being published has been one of the best things in my life, yet it’s been fraught with emotional challenges. Will I perform well at my book signing? Will the next book measure up? Was FALLING FOR HAMLET even any good? Am I getting enough publicity for my book? Do I sound stupid in interviews? Am I polite enough in my emails? Too needy? Too meek? Too bold? Too rambly? It’s like the Berenstain Bears book with Papa worrying while picking out a hat: “Too silly, too frilly, too beady, too bumpy, too leafy, too lumpy.” Or maybe I’m being Hamlet-y: flip-flopping emotions and tons of questions.
So my mission: focus on the joy. Because this IS a joyful time. And it might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. With my husband’s help, I’m getting better at it. He keeps telling me to “take the victory lap,” he makes me visit my books in bookstores, and he reminds me that this is beyond what I’d thought possible.
For the Jews in the crowd, taking a moment to be thankful for each piece of a story might bring to mind Passover and the repetition of Dayenu. Dayenu basically translates into, “It would have been enough.” I’ve begun to go through the publishing experience and to mentally celebrate each moment that would have been enough.
My friends enjoyed the emailed version. Dayenu.
I found an agent. Dayenu.
She found an editor who liked what I’d written. Dayenu.
The editor and her team helped make it a better book. Dayenu.
It got a hot cover. Dayenu.
Barnes and Noble put it on their shelves. Dayenu.
People are buying the book. Dayenu.
Readers like it. Dayenu.
People email me to say they were moved. Dayenu.
The editors want to work with me again. Dayenu.
The book was positively reviewed in Family Circle Magazine. Dayenu.
I had articles done about my work in Bethesda Magazine and The Washington Post. Dayenu.
I’ve gotten to know incredible writers from my agency and beyond. Dayenu.
My friends and family are happy for me. Dayenu.
They come to my book signings and send lovely messages of support. Dayenu.
And because it bears repeating . . .
I. Have. A. Book. Published. Dayenu.
It has all been beyond my wildest dreams. Truly. So when I focus on each moment, when I take in the lucky joy of it all, when I quiet the “what ifs” and the worries, I am happy.