I can’t believe today is my day to leave Emu’s Debuts. (Actually, it was yesterday and I’m a day late getting this post up. See how I’m dragging my feet?)
I’ll be honest, guys: I don’t know what to say for this last post. I’ve drafted and trashed two versions so far. One was about the similarities of being a new mom and a new author and the pressures of trying to navigate both at the same time. The other was about the unexpected curveballs of life and how no experience happens in a vacuum; there is always the push and pull of everything else going on in your life, tugging and molding the experience. I like both ideas, but then they petered out in the middle with the whole quandary of is this really how I want to say goodbye?
Argh. I’m never good at goodbyes. I’m always the awkward one leaving the party.
I revisited other Emus’ final posts for inspiration, but instead of thinking about what I should write, I got caught up in the comfort of their advice and experiences. And that is exactly why I have loved being a part of this blog and think it’s an important resource for writers. Being a writer and navigating the publishing world is a tricky, lonely thing sometimes. There are no clear-cut paths, and any given question has a variety of answers. It helps to have a community you can learn from and lean on, and that’s what Emu’s Debuts has been for me.
I suppose I should use this last post to sum up what I’ve learned from my debut experience, but that’s easier said than done. I feel simultaneously so overwhelmed with processing everything that has happened in the past year, both personally and career wise, that I couldn’t possibly whittle it down into a pithy post, and also, I feel exactly the same as I did a year ago. But how can that be if I’ve had so many new experiences? I must be different. I’m surely older and wiser, right? But I’m still struggling through the draft of a book–just like last year–still trying to tell a story as best as I can. Still trying to brainstorm how I can reach the readers who will be most interested in my stories. I have not yet unlocked the secret level with all the writerly answers.
One of the things that took me most by surprise about being on the published side of the debut process was how stressful I found it. I have stepped outside of my comfort zone so many times I’ve lost count. But I haven’t regretted sticking my neck out there once, and in fact, after stepping out of my comfort zone the first few times I was encouraged to do it more because my experiences were never as scary or hard as I worried they might be, and so many good things have come out of saying YES.
I had an epiphany about the stress a couple months after Book Scavenger came out, which I shared with my husband. With the enthusiasm of someone crying EUREKA! I said, “It’s like I’ve started a new job!” And he gave me this side-eyed, slightly concerned look, which I’ve seen more often in the past year, and he said, “Yes. It is.”
Because of course it’s like starting a new job. But I hadn’t really connected those dots. Maybe because I sold my books in 2013, so my brain felt like THAT was when I started a new job, only all the work I did between selling Book Scavenger and its publication was largely familiar-to-me work. That was a lot of the sitting by myself playing with words sort of work which I have done for decades.
It has been the experiences that came after publication–largely the experiences of interacting with people who have read my book or who I hoped would read my book or who might help get my book into the hands of the readers who will like it. All of that stuff was totally new terrain. I was suddenly researching things like how to set up school visits, what to say at school visits, how to set up Skype visits, introducing myself at bookstores and libraries, talking up my book at trade shows, deliberating what sort of promotional materials I should invest in, and on and on and on. I paid attention to conversations about these things before, but studying something is not the same as experiencing it. Fortunately, with experience comes familiarity, and that is why it was a relief for me to realize that I’ve started a new job. As with any new job there are learning curves, but soon it becomes familiar and you will settle into a routine.
So I don’t have anything particularly profound to share today. I’m doing my best to enjoy the ride of becoming a published author, and am so grateful to have had the experience of being an Emu. If you’d like to stay connected, you can find me over here on my author blog where I hope to be more active in the future.
And now, um, I guess I’ll be going.
See? I’m awkward at goodbyes.
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger has been selected as an Indie Next Kids’ Top Ten Pick for Summer 2015, an Amazon Best Book of 2015, and was one of five books chosen for the Publisher’s Weekly Best Summer Reads 2015, among other accolades. Two more titles in the Book Scavenger series will be published in 2017, as well as a stand-alone middle grade mystery in 2018. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and worked in publishing for over a decade before becoming a children’s book author. More information can be found about her and her books atjenniferchamblissbertman.com and bookscavenger.com.