Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Post by Tatjana Solli: Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Publishing a First Book

Your relationship with your husband/significant other will get worse.

Your relationship with your mother won’t get better.

You relationship with your dog will.
I remember attending a writing conference years ago and having some extremely successful writer tell us that the most important thing to him was the act of writing, that creation was where the pure joy of the profession was, that if we were all writing to the best of our abilities, every day, we should consider ourselves successful, publication or not.


I, and I’ll guess everyone else in that class, thought, easy for you to say. His books in every bookstore, reviews to die for, awards and more awards. We assumed we were getting the consolation prize speech.

Fast forward some _________ (cough, cough) years, and I’m on the brink of publishing my first novel, The Lotus Eaters. In my own limited, extremely miniscule way, I’ve learned a few things. Number one: Writing is the most important thing.

Don’t yawn yet.

In the beginning, I do think it’s necessary to be a little obsessed with publication, only because it’s so quiet those first years. No one is telling you, Yes! The first time you see your name in print, in my case a small quarterly long since out of print, is genuinely thrilling. Then it’s over. You push little journals on your friends and family to read, but after a while you have no choice but to shut up and go back to work. This is your refuge from the quiet, your refuge from the constant barrage of rejection slips that we all suffer through.

Once you publish a book, you have a different problem. Instead of silence, there is nonstop noise, and if there is no noise, you get nervous and make your own. Publication and promotion is a full-time business. If you don’t believe me, look at the thick shelves of advice books to aspiring and new authors. This last year I created a website, a blog, got on Facebook and Twitter. You are reading my guest blog here. I’ve dipped into the world of non-fiction essays and reviews. It’s a lot of noise for a quiet person to make.

Without peace and quiet, normal writer mode, I get irritable. Hence, my husband has been extremely tolerant of my rollercoaster moods. I’m busier than I’ve ever been —juggling writing novel two, teaching, and keeping up with my website, blog, readings, twitterings. I haven’t visited my mom in a while. Mom is not so happy with her debut-novelist daughter. But I’m happy to report my dog still is wild about me. Two meals a day, a walk, and a good scratch behind the ears, and he’s happy. He doesn’t much care about the novel one way or another. He did sniff it to see if it was edible.

All this is to say that as much as publishing changes your life, it doesn’t change it fundamentally. Writers write. Good times, bad times. The best part is that a few days ago I got my first fan mail. The woman totally got the novel, and said how deeply it moved her. I printed it out. All that exhausting noise, but some of it so beautiful. I’ll tell the truth at this stage — I’m itching to get back to my desk, itching to start new stories. That famous writer was correct: writers write.

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