Countdown to pub day for “The Beginning of After” continues, and it’s been a time of incredible highs and lows.
First, I tripped over a mysterious little package in my garage (where the UPS guy likes to leave deliveries). It looked unassuming — maybe more random weirdness my hubby bought on eBay — until I saw the HarperCollins return address and my heart spazzed. I ran upstairs to sit on our new leather couch, because that seemed like a better spot, and carefully opened the envelope.
Voila. My first copy of TBOA. With a glistening hardcover and solid corners I could run my fingers over, and enough heft to say, yes, I am real! I can’t truly describe the feeling because I have no idea what that feeling was. My closest guess is a combination of disbelief, happiness, and total panic.
It had been a great day already, since earlier I got the news that TBOA has been selected to the 2011 ABC (Association of Booksellers for Children) New Voices List. The New Voices project is “a selection of 20 books, 10 Middle Grade and 10 YA, by outstanding first-time authors, chosen by a committee of 14 independent children’s booksellers from around the country.” Surprising and thrilling, especially coming from indie booksellers, for whom I have so much respect, and who are really on the frontlines of putting new books into the hands of readers.
Oh, and there was a fantastic review from the ForeverYA blog, which made me, my agent, and my editor all laugh out loud. Posh rocks!
Then while I was flying around on that high, someone I loved went away forever.
Often, the most a woman can hope for in the mother-in-law department is to get one you can co-exist peacefully with. I was lucky. Mine was awesome. Kathy was the most selfless and dynamic person I’ve ever met, filled with constant good humor and joy. She was a matriarch in the truest sense — she mothered everyone around her, including me. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer early last year, none of us could imagine a world without her in it. Kathy fought that cancer with old-school, Irish-style courage and strength, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
Ah, the irony: to be grieving a loss at the exact moment my novel about grieving and loss is published. But that just adds another dimension to what it all means, and another prism through which I can regard my own work. With all the research I did for the book, I’m new to the sensation that you can grieve not just for oneself, but for others too. Because although I’m coping with my own devastation, I also grieve for my husband losing his mother, and for my children not having this gigantic love and wonderful spirit in their lives, and simply never feeling those arms around them again.
The lesson I learn over and over again is that life doesn’t stop for anything. There is still writing and book promotion and parenting and housecleaning and breathing in, breathing out. Going to bed at night, waking up the next day. I’m not sure what this one will bring, but I’m ready for it.