The spectrum of emotions that accompanies the book review process is an all but gracious one. The journey typically begins by sitting in front of your computer, eye-to-eye with Google, knowing it could all go either way, while your precious work of art sits just as nervous on your lap.
You click and type and scroll and copy and paste and wipe your brow and take another sip of coffee until you stumble across someone you think might get it. You take a deep breath, formulate a professional sounding email respectfully requesting their time, and sit back in your chair wondering how desperate you may have just come off. You're self-published, after all. There is a stigma on self-published authors, and rightfully so. Heck, even I've scoffed at the stacks of poorly designed jacket covers and confused plot lines that most indie titles produce.
But what people don't know, and what you can't really tell them quite yet, is that you decided to self-publish because there is an entire generation of children and adults suffering in their own silence because someone hurt them and you couldn't wait anymore, at least with a clear conscious, to go the traditional route. They don't know that a couple publishing houses started the conversation of a deal, but when you realized there would be an additional 1-2 year timeline to publish and distribute, your stomach twisted at the thought of how many more kids would try to hurt themselves and end up on the very unit you used to work on because they could've been told that much sooner that they can be okay. So you took your chances on the stigma because, after all, it wouldn't be the first one you've lived with.
You reread the email you typed six or seven times before sending it. Flashes of nine-hour writing binges at the library surface. Images of falling asleep on your keyboard in a coffeeshop where the barista's knew your name begin to flood your mind. You smile remembering the horse ranch in The Olympics you stayed at one weekend to write that one scene, or the really rainy solo hike you got lost on as an attempt to understand what the main character would be experiencing. You remember what song was playing on repeat when each character had an epiphany, and the real-life people you missed in Chicago because the only way you could finish this novel was to move 2,000 miles away from them to the PNW to be closer to nature.
You start to think of all the kids you've worked with, remembering the horror stories they gave you to hold for them. You remember how many tried to commit suicide before getting any kind of real help, and how you held a few right after a violent episode, secretly promising them that you would honor their story one day somehow. You remember their hugs, their high fives, and their vulnerability. You then remember your own journey, and the things you survived yourself to be able to tell this story. You hope you did well by all of them and that whatever rookie mistakes you've inevitably made in your writing might be ignored for the message of the book itself. You just need people to give it a chance.
You then shake off the past, take another deep breath, and hit send. After pacing for a few hours, or sometimes days, this stranger surprises you with a response and reluctantly says, "Sure, I can take a look at your book." You can hear the caution in their voice, but you bypass any budding doubt and rush to the post office before either of you can change your mind. You give your package a final squeeze of adoration and wish it well on its journey.
Then comes the aggravating anticipation of waiting for your book to be completely read. This is always the worst part, and completely your fault. You know full well that you wrote a ton and that the process of flipping through all of those densely packed pages will take time, but it doesn't make waiting any easier.
Finally, weeks later, or most times, months, you get the email that they're done. They've read your book and posted their "honest" opinion online for the entire world to see. They send you a link and your entire body freezes. You stare at the neon blue hyperlink before you as your knees starts to shake under the table. You run your fingers through your bangs and shake your head, fighting all of the discouraging "what if's" that inevitably haunt all of us at some point. You then think of how someone very special to you used to push you through these scary moments by reminding you to, "Be brave." You smile, also remembering that that was the last line of dialogue in your book, then click on the link to meet your fate.
You rush through every sentence of the review, making note of the feedback they've offered, half-ignoring the rewrite of the synopsis, and frantically looking for the first sign that they may have gotten the message you worked so hard to convey. And then that's when you see it..."I don't know how she did it, but Mendivel..."
There it is.
The subjective and visceral reactions.
The revelation that you have somehow just connected with this person you have never met...and offered them a way of looking at the world that makes them feel heard, too. Because that's all that ever matters in this life, to be able to connect with other people in a lasting and meaningful way.
And that is when hope creeps backs in. Hope that this review, and the several others steadily rolling in, will build enough evidence for the literary world to realize that there is a novel out there that is alive and breathing in the human condition.
But not because you need to be a NYT best seller (yet), but because then it would mean more kids would have access to it. Even kiddos without trauma that are just struggling to be themselves would be able to see that they aren't alone in their experiences. And so you go back to daydreaming about how big everything could actually be...and know somewhere, deep down, that it's all going to work out.
Thank you to Kait for her gorgeous photo of Sam's Theory and recent review on 3000MilesofMe.com. May we all have the continued courage to become who we are fully capable of becoming.
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