I seem to be living in a spiral-shaped sea shell these days. Harper turned four on Monday. Ollie will be two in a few weeks. And this Tuesday, April 2nd, a few days after the kids’ birthday party with all its balloons and frosting, my book officially comes out. The Mermaid of Brooklyn is about a mother with two kids, two years apart, like mine, but I started writing it when Harper was just a few months old, one day after a visit to the swingset, with her asleep in the carrier on my chest. I was thinking about my great-grandmother and rusalkis and the weird culture of Brooklyn parenting more than my actual parenting experiences, although of course it all gets mixed in together. And on Tuesday, my book launch will be at Powerhouse on 8th, the new bookstore in the building I lived in when I wrote the book. 2 kids, 4 years, and a move later: the book.
Of course I’m so excited and thankful. But also: confused.
Due to ongoing contract disputes between my publishers and Barnes & Noble, it’s very unlikely anyone will be able to find my book at a B&N store. In many parts of the country, that’s the only place to go and stroll about and discover a new book. I know my suburban Chicago B&N outlet was where I went on weeknights as a teenager to drink cinnamon-plum tea and read philosophy texts and women’s magazines (yes, at the same time) with my best friend and browse around in the quiet store at 8 pm and happen upon some book on a table I never would have heard of otherwise — and I feel like B&N should remember this, and care. I guess what I’m saying is, I really love B&N. I love my indies, and always support them, but when I was growing up in the suburbs, B&N was a sanctuary of sorts for me. And I have been so happy with Simon & Schuster and everyone at my division, Touchstone, and all their support of my book, and I get that both sides have their reasons. I know. It’s not personal.
But then, also, an unexpectedly nice thing has happened, because of all this B&N business: S&S authors, all (coincidence?) female novelists, have banded together to try to get our books on the radar. M.J. Rose, Jenna Blum, Randy Susan Meyers — these are authors I have only known from afar, who are doing what I aspire to — writing smart books about women’s lives that readers obsessively love — and yet suddenly we’re all tweeting each other all the time. I feel this solidarity with other writers whose books are coming out into this mess, like we are all book-sisters (and not just competing for the seven spots for reviews left in the country). And there’s something really, really nice about that. I would post all their book covers here but I still have a lot of laundry to fold. So go here, and check out these wonderful books!
I once read an interview with an author whose debut novel had been largely ignored. When asked how he felt about the book’s reception he said something like, “You know, my wife and I just had our first baby, and that is a very good distraction, and puts everything else into perspective.” I loved this. I’ve found balancing writerhood and mothership to be challenging. It’s hard to find the time and focus and energy to write, even if, maybe especially if, you’re writing ABOUT motherhood. But I’ve also the combination to be a nourishing one.
Take today: I could have spent the day obsessing about my book and what will or won’t happen with it, but I was too busy having an adventure on the subway and a raucous playdate and making Charlie & Lola decorations for the birthday party. Ollie played in an afternoon sunbeam, swiping his hand at the glowing dust motes, laughing hysterically. Harper told me she was having a hard time deciding whether to be a doctor or a teacher. At bedtime, the kids cuddled up and Harper read Ollie his favorite books, and he propped his fat little cheek in his fat little hand to listen intently, and I almost cried, and that was all that really mattered about today. I’m lucky, lucky, lucky and I know it. I would of course like to be a lucky, lucky, lucky author with books in B&N but whatever, I’ll take what I can get.
If you live in New York City, please join me at one of my readings! Wine and bunny crackers, obviously, will be served.
If you don’t, please go into your local Barnes & Noble and with a very puzzled look on your face, ask where oh where is that great Mermaid of Brooklyn book you’ve been hearing so much about could be.
And finally, if you can identify the provenance of the bookstore pictured above, feel a moment of in-on-the-joke pride. Go on, really enjoy it. Then, tell me in the comments (but don’t Google it, you dirty cheater)and if you’re the first one to do so (and you are not my husband) I’ll send you a book!