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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Fame? Well...

A friend at the hospital heard I was a newly published novelist and asked me if I would be calling in too “Rich and Famous” to work soon. After all, I am on a book tour! I have just published a novel!

Published a novel?? Me?? Who would have dreamed it when I was slogging away in our grungy basement, or local coffee shops with the same fantastical self-image as any middle-aged mother who suddenly decides to reinvent themselves? Was this novelist thing any less outrageous than suddenly taking up yodeling or body piercing? I told my her that I would be happy merely to call in “Out of Debt and Keeping my Same Old Friends.”

Unanticipated as it is, it has been a bit miraculous to be on a book tour, finally holding in my own disbelieving hands the weighty, hard back product of a decade’s worth of silent musing. If I may confess it to this anonymous audience, the only event to surpass this so far is the birth of my twins. Even my wedding paled. (Sorry, sweetie!)

In my fleeting fifteen minutes of fame, I can admit that it has been glorious, and the cause of many deep and soulful blushes, but also comfortingly real. I still look in the mirror after a signing and realize I have lipstick smudged on my front tooth, and I still come home to the same piles of dirty dishes and smelly socks, and my children are thoroughly bored with the whole escapade. Surprisingly, that only makes me more certain they love me for my mediocre cooking and lung-collapsing hugs.

So I am happy to wallow in this fifteen minutes of fame, all the while recognizing that–just like Andy Warhol, the originator of that sweeping anointment–I too shall die and a million more will rise up to replace me. They are nipping at the edges of the bookstore shelves right now, ready to bump me from face-out to spine-out. But I even like that somehow. More books to read in my own future! More reason to keep writing!

In the middle of my tour I ran out of copies of Oxygen and wanted to buy some as gifts. I went to my the nearest big box bookstore, grabbed three off a table and plopped them on the counter.

“Do you have a discount card?” the perky young clerk asked. I gave her my number and she stated my name to verify. She asked for my credit card and photo ID, repeating my name each time, clearly drilled by her manager not to let any identity frauds slip through on her watch. She looked at the cover of my novel and I waited, almost shyly, for her to congratulate me on being the author. “Gee,” she said at last. “I’ve seen this book around a lot lately.” I smiled and started to thank her. Then she continued, “Do you know anything about it?”

She handed me my bag and I shook my head. “I just liked the cover.” Next time, though, I just might flip to the author photo on the flap when she asks for my ID. If I’m feeling bold.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Family Vacation--You've Been There

I am vacationing in the mountains of Colorado with my family, the first true break we have taken in six months. It has been a grueling spring—I have been prepping for my first ever book tour, trying to fish my new novel out of the fast moving river launching my recently released novel, and still practicing anesthesia. My husband is finishing up two houses and taking care of his elderly father. Trader Joe’s is a dinner staple and the kids are rotating KP. To put it bluntly, nobody’s mopping the floors or scrubbing the bathtubs. We need this break.

Now, the one downside to this writing thing is that there really is no break. Your hands may not be on the keyboard every minute but, rather like gestation, if a new novel is in the making, your writing mind is fully occupied and your fingers are itching. The fact that you are always in working mode is definitely mitigated by the requisite writing wardrobe—a bathrobe and coffee-stained Uggs—but I think I’ve given up any memory of a real summer vacation. Oh well, it’s not like motherhood comes with actual time off either.

So the beckoning anticipation I’ve been conjuring for this mountain getaway is time to write: time just after dawn when everyone else is still puffing away in breathless dreams at this unfamiliar altitude, or after dinner when they are all locked in games of Cranium and Apples to Apples and I can sneak away to a back bedroom with my laptop. I want time inside a house that does not require my attention, with no desk covered with unpaid bills and unanswered mail, with no yard to weed or laundry to sort.

We tuck in that first night and I have to force myself not to think about the first words I want to put on the LCD screen in seven or eight hours. Maybe I will dream about the ending to the novel that I don’t yet know. My eyes open at first light and I look at the clock—only five, at least one more hour to go. Now it is six and I slip out from the comforter without waking my husband, pull on the bathrobe and start scooping coffee grounds into the filter.

Then I hear it. Every mother knows it. The low groan followed by the crescendo of a retch—and no, it’s not the dog. I drop the bag of coffee into the sink and I’m in the back bedroom before last night’s dinner can hit the floor. The next eight hours will be spent rinsing pans and washcloths and rocking this child to sleep whenever he can. And then another child will have incubated this virus to personal maturity and we can start again. Another novel put on hold. Another vacation memory made.