Until today. You'd think I'd be prepared. Ready. It's not like I've never seen my writing in print. For better or worse, I've slaved or scammed a thousand fast and easy stories for weeklies, monthlies, newspapers, websites, anything. When people have asked me what I write, I've sometimes answered, "Anything that pays."
Is that like literary prostitution? If so, then I'm guilty of being a woman of the write. But writing on assignment, regardless of how minor the water board meeting or major the red carpet, was never like this. Because Women Float feels personal. The book feels like me.
I know, I know. I can hear you writing workshop graduates. I am not these words or the ones in my book. But I've cared for my characters, nurtured them, fed their existence and conjured them from air. I want everyone to love them, without judgement, like me. Besides my dear characters being exposed, there's also me, their writer. I'm their creator. I always wanted to publish a book and when I hadn't for so long, I became familiar with that, too. That void, like the unborn child or lost beloved or cancelled vacation. I got used to this feeling of something both precious and unattainable, and then I built stories around it to make myself feel better and then I inhabited those stories and wrapped them around myself like a warm Alpaca shawl, homely but comfortable.
Today, I removed that ugly sweater of failed writer-dom. Today I also ate the season's first ollalieberries from the forgotten bushes leftover from my family's abandoned u-pick berry farm. I shared them with my daughter, her first taste of that dark and surprising blackberry. Then, my daughter picked her first ripe apricot and showed it to me. I broke it in half and she pushed the half-moon into my mouth again and again, smiling as I admired the tartness, flavor. She smeared the leaking orange orb across my face, until the clear juice stiffened like white glue, drying in the sun as a reminder that the world is too much sweetness.
This important day of delightful publication is both unprecedented and uncomfortable. Fear of failure sandwiched neatly by fear of success. Today, I bite my first fruit of true writing success and it is all sweet, with no bitterness at all. I force myself to rest here, for one, two, three, four breaths. I will engage just one reader at a time. That is all. That is enough.