(This article appeared first in the Martha’s Vineyard Times www.mvtimes.com.)
What a difference a year makes. This time last year we elected a new president, changing the face of America forever. On that very day we learned we were to become grandparents for the very first time. And, a year ago, I was on sabbatical in order to finish the book that eventually came to be titled ONE GOOD DOG.
Today, Barack Obama, Nobel laureate, seasonal Vineyard visitor, and Bo’s proud owner, is grappling with the big issues of economy and health care; war and peace, attempting to keep campaign promises. He’s dealing with H1N1 and myriad other situations that weren’t on his plate then, but take up plenty of space now.
Our granddaughter is just over four months old and a real person instead of a theoretical one. She’s turned her parents’ world topsy turvey and turned her grandparents into the kind of people that gush and take pictures at every drooling smile.
Last but not least, ONE GOOD DOG is finished. At this writing, it’s getting closer to its March release, so close that it has a cover, flattering reviews in publishing magazines, blurbs, and a developing publicity plan. Apropos of that, I recently made a pilgrimage to the canyons of New York City to meet not just with my editor and agent, but with the team whose responsibility it is to make sure OGD (as we call it among ourselves) hits the bookstore shelves like greased lightning, flying off them as fast as a bookseller can stock it.
I was given the grand tour of the St. Martin’s Press offices, which happen to be in the world famous Flatiron building on Fifth Avenue. I was led by my editor from office to office, up and down the sixteen or seventeen floors in this unique building and introduced to everyone from the artist who designed to cover to the woman who sells the sub-rights, to the CFO and the top-rung editor who runs the place. I was hugged, cheered and flattered. I had no idea who these people were, yet they all knew me…or at least the book. In the movies, authors always seem to be in and out of their editor’s offices, or their agents are attending to their every whim, as if authors are hothouse flowers needing protection and coddling, or worse, eccentric and overbearing. I like to think that I am none of those things, but it was a very pleasant experience to be welcomed so warmly by perfect strangers. Because a writer’s work is, of necessity, a solitary activity; and because in today’s electronic world so much is done via email instead of by phone or face to face, it was a little weird to find out that my work is the daily topic of conversation among publicity, marketing and editorial specialists; that it’s become a commodity. I don’t write this as any sort of bragging or with any intended pomposity; it was just such a surreal experience. I felt like I had come out of a cave into the light. It was sort of like being one of those cinematic representations of an author, heady stuff for a girl from an island not Manhattan.
In the olden days, back five or six years ago, and a whole lifetime ago economically, authors were trotted out and sent to multiple cities to do talks and book signings, it was part of the culture and considered the best way to get respectable book sales. Nowadays, only the cash cows are afforded these perks, the rest of us are on what might be called a publicity diet—less is more, close to home, and a lot of it is do-it-yourself. The new book tour is electronic and on my New York visit much of the discussion around the lunch table—in a fabulously trendy minimalist restaurant called the Craftbar—was on maximizing Facebook and the blogosphere. Would I consider ‘guesting’ on blogs? Can I do that in my Mom jeans and threadbare sweatshirt? Sign me up! Skype? Okay, I’ll put on a nice shirt. Oddly enough, the youngest of my luncheon companions, a publicist, pooh-poohed Twitter as so passé and not to be bothered with. Quelle relief. I’m not much into a form of communication that restricts my word count.
I returned home elevated by my New York experience and was quickly humbled by real life. New York was a heady experience, and one which I will always treasure, but it’s not my life. Plugging away at a new manuscript, writing this column, sorting whites from colors, going to the day job, that’s my real life. But it’s nice to have a few hours of magic once a year.
Economies slip, babies change everything in a family, new presidents bring us hope and, finally, books are finished. What a difference a year makes.