It’s 10:30 on Wednesday night and I’m sitting alone in my friend’s apartment near Times Square listening to cabs honking outside and the low rumble of garbage trucks moving up and down the street. Everything about this place and these sounds bring back a hundred familiar memories, except today was a day unlike any other so familiarity in the face of such newness simply becomes something to feel comforted by.
I walked into the Penguin offices down on Hudson Street in the West Village a few minutes after 10 this morning, running late, something only characteristic of me since becoming a mother. I buzzed past the display case of bestselling books and into the embrace of my waiting editor who has become more of a friend than an editor these days. The rest of the day was nothing if not a whirlwind.
There was breakfast in the conference room where I met about two dozen Penguin employees, all of whom have read my book and are doing something vital to support it and bring it into the world. I got teared up on more than one occasion as I shook hands and said thank you in response to the kind of compliments a writer could only dream about. They even made me sign copies of my book for them, which embarrassed me to no end (and not just because of my terrible signature).
After that it was off in a cab with my editor and two other Penguiners to lunch in Union Square with some people from Barnes & Noble. Okay, here I go with the tears again as I write this.
Ten years ago I was an incredibly sad young woman working as a bartender in Union Square. I often took double shifts in order to make rent and on those days I would sit outside in the square and look across at the Barnes & Noble and I would vow that I wouldn’t be a bartender forever, that I would rise above it all, that I would get out of this place and that I would really become a writer, that I would see my book on shelves and that one day I would walk past the restaurant where I worked for so long with my head held high.
Today I sat at lunch in the W Hotel with people who believe in me and who love my book and in stolen moments, between conversation, I could almost see through the window to the 23 year old me sitting there in Union Square on her break. Dirty uniform, cigarette in hand, heart broken with grief and confusion. I wanted to whisper across time and space to her — it’s going to happen, you really will get out of there. One day you won’t be so lonely. You won’t be so sad. You’ll be a wife and a mother and you’ll be a real writer with a book that people love.
And I think that maybe, just maybe, 23 year old me somewhere, sometime, must have heard me whisper those things. Because that’s the only way I could have persisted all this time. It’s the only way I could have gone through all the rejections and terrible days, the revisions and bad drafts and sad, sad mornings.
It’s the only way I could have made it as far as to find myself saying thank you to the people who have chosen me for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program in Spring 2012.
That’s my big news that I’ve been wanting to share. I’ve been picked for a Spring 2012 selection of B&N’s Discover Great New Writers program. My book will be on a special shelf in the front of every B&N in the country for three months. I’ll be in the company of writers who have graced my bookshelves and the bestseller lists more times than I can count. I’ll also be contributing some original content that will be available only to Nook users for the More in Store promotion.
So I sit here, exhausted and overwhelmed in the most pleasant way possible, trying to process all that happened today and all that lies ahead. More than anything I just feel gratitude. I’m grateful to the people who have read my words and understood what it is I’m trying to say. I’m grateful for the people who have believed in me and who have believed in this book. And I’m grateful to my 23 year old self for not giving up when it seemed like what I was dreaming of might just be impossible.