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Writer Waking Up - A Publication Blog

Launch Amid Life

The three launch events for my just-released memoir were marvelously fun--the result of weeks of planning, networking, and selfless giving by friends and writers. In the span of four weeks I read from and talked about my book amid colleagues and students in southern California at my job in a low-residency MFA program; in my hometown indie bookstore before 40 friends and a wine-and -cheese reception; and, most recently, under the cardboard cutout gaze of Southern iconic writer Thomas Wolfe at the memorial his mother's boarding house has become. At all three events I had my right knee wrapped in a big black Velcro brace. In each case it hurt a little to stand for the required hour or so. At all three events I chose my dress with care and put some effort into hair and makeup (something I seldom do, but for public appearances appearance has always been, for me, part of the program), all while admonishing myself not to care that the ugly brace spoiled the effect.

Three days after the last event and less than a week ago as I type this, I had outpatient surgery to repair a torn meniscus. My days since the surgery revolve around the slow and awkward mechanics of post-operative grooming and thrice-daily sets physical therapy exercises.  Read More 
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On the experience of launching...

The thirty days have passed. The book is launched. A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations is in the world: in the hands of friends and strangers, on booksellers' shelves, and--just a few days ago--mounded before me for signing at my local independent bookstore, Malaprop's in Asheville.

How do I feel? My whole face is one enormous, goofy grin in the photo from the book signing. One of the many congratulatory comments when I posted that photo on Facebook said, "You sure look happy."

I am happy. But I am also chagrinned by the attention. Yes, honestly, I am. Writers are known to be weird and one of the particular ways I'm weird is this combined compulsion to a) share my truths by writing about them while b) wishing to not impose myself on others. I want people to have the choice to read or not read my book, but to make that choice, people have to know the book exists, and thus, nowadays, it's part of my job as author to create that visibility.

To aspire to write a book and then to persevere in writing it to completion is an existential feat. And to get a book published is a huge lucky break after--usually-- another feat of perseverance and courage: a years-long search and dozens if not hundreds of rejections. That I've managed to achieve this twice (the memoir is my second book) is almost a miracle. So, yes, I am happy. I am amazed.

I am also transformed. Or at least transforming. Let me try to explain that.

One of the values I was raised with was never to be beholden to anybody. I'm not sure if this arose from my parents' Depression-era privations or the grit of their hard-scrabble Appalachian ancestors, but the message came down to me like this: Don't owe anyone anything. Avoiding indebtedness had to do with money, yes, but equally with favors or attention. Don't ask for help. Don't call attention to yourself. Keep quiet, keep your head down, and keep working. Read More 
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