My debut book’s path to publication was an unusual and lucky one. During my sophomore year of college, as part of the Wesleyan University slam poetry team, I performed my poem “Shrinking Women” at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. The poem discussed the way girls learn to shrink, both physically and metaphorically; how we learn not to take up space, learn from the women who came before us that, as women, we must be small. It’s about watching our mothers shrink and learning to mimic them.
While I was studying abroad the following fall, the video went viral. I remember my surprise at returning from a trip to the North Argentinean desert, reconnecting to the internet, and seeing that my poem had more than a million views on YouTube. Soon after that, I heard from Liza Kaplan, an editor at Philomel, who was interested in speaking. We spoke several times, and after she attended a poetry performance of mine at the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute in New York, she offered me a contract for a yet-to-be-created novel.
I was, of course, ecstatic. I’ve wanted to write books my whole life. I’ve been a voracious bookworm since teaching myself to read at age four, and my dream career has always been author, but I never quite dared to believe I was capable of doing it. After all, it’s scary to believe you’re capable of your dream, right? ‘Cause then you actually have to go for it.
This was the constant question in my mind in the two years following, during the writing of This Impossible Light: Am I capable of this? Can I write a book? Sometimes, I thought so; other times, I was positive I sucked at this and Liza had made a huge mistake and the book would be a flop. I doubted myself through every round of edits, but I put in the work because I also loved it. And I wanted to prove to myself that I could.
I also needed to tell this story. Ivy’s story is her own, but it is also my story: the story of a girl, in the middle of adolescence, whose family dissolves before her eyes, who is left to her own devices, who takes out the resulting pain on her own body. This is the story of This Impossible Light, and it’s the story of me, and I wanted to tell it, so I had to work through the doubt.
It wasn’t until the book was officially done that I felt pride. That I re-read the novel and felt Ivy’s pain, her loneliness, and her hope, and I cried. Because her hope was my hope. And I’d proven to myself that I could do it. Regardless of how the book is received, I am proud of the way I’ve told this story.
I’m thrilled that come June, This Impossible Light will be a physical object in my hands, that I can point to it in a bookstore and whisper to my younger self: You did it.
LILY MYERS is a writer, feminist and witch. Her debut novel, This Impossible Light, is out June 6 from Philomel. She lives in Seattle with her baby corn snake, Calliope H. Danger.
4 responses to “Writing Through Doubt: How This Impossible Light was Born”
Lily! This is amazing! What a phenomenal path to publication!
Congratulations on your upcoming debut! What an inspirational path to publication story! Wishing you the very best!
Lily – thank you for sharing. I feel so happy for you being able to visit your very own book in physical form in libraries and bookstores everywhere this June – whoo-hoo!
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