Monday, March 21, 2011
A week ago, someone from Mira emailed me and asked when I'd be able to go to New York to get an author photo taken. Um... next Monday? I already had terrific author photos which I use all over the interwebs, courtesy of Angel Kidwell, but apparently the Mira people wanted to work the photo with the rest of the cover design, and stuff like that. So off I went to one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
My best friend Laura can tell you that on my wedding day, when she went to make me up, I handed her a pile of random makeup I'd collected since seventh grade and asked her to do whatever. It's not that I don't think appearance matters, at least to some degree; it's that I just can't do artifice. Wearing makeup makes me feel like I'm trying to put one over on you. Now, this doesn't stop me from coloring my hair, but that's different; I started doing that years ago because nobody wanted to see a 26-year-old with gray hair. I consider it a public service.
So I don't really have words for how bizarre it was for me to find myself in a studio in SoHo, getting made up and blown out by this guy whose clients are basically everyone you've ever seen in a magazine, so my picture can be taken by this other guy who has taken photos of a variety of individuals, such as Carolyn Kennedy, Chloe Sevigny, Harold Bloom, Chuck Close, etc. In fact, this was exactly the last place I expected to find myself when I set out to make a career out of telling stories. My entire career is pieces of paper with words on them. There is nothing more irrelevant to this job than how I look. Yet somehow there I was, and everybody was really nice and funny, and they brought me a fruit salad and a SmartWater, which made me feel like a real model for a photo shoot instead of a children's ministry coordinator from the 'burbs who needs to lose ten pounds.
After that I got treated to lunch at a Korean restaurant by a Mira editor, Adam, which was totally fun, not least of all because the restaurant was decorated with a wall of elaborate, cavelike rock featuring a waterfall and a white baby grand piano jutting out on a precipice. Finally, I walked over to the FinePrint offices and got to meet my agent in real life. Stephany is as genuine and funny and sweet in person as I'd imagined from our phone conversations. Nothing makes a gazillion rejections sweeter than knowing the agent who signed you really, really rocks.
When my first book came out from a smaller publisher several years ago, I corresponded with another writer whose YA book was going to be released a few months later. She seemed very confident that her book would do extremely well. During our email conversations, she indicated her publisher was putting a big push behind the book, and the vibe I got was that she believed it was a foregone conclusion that the book would hit it big. Sure enough, it debuted on the New York Times bestseller list, and she's made a heck of a career for herself since then. I always kinda wondered how she knew that would happen. When I'm offered opportunities like today's photo shoot, or last month's conference, I better understand why that author read the tea leaves the way she did. But the thing is, I don't have that kind of confidence, and it still puzzles me how anyone can. Wouldn't it be nice to embark on this publishing gig and see every step as part of the overarching narrative of one's success? But a career is not a book; you can't control the plot. I write my books, but the readers will write my career.
I hope you like them.