I'm writing this on the plane as I return to Texas and real life, from the surreal week I've had in New York City. When I left Dallas four days ago, the entire process of working on this book was an internal one, consisting mostly of late nights spent over my laptop in my living room. My interactions with my agent had taken place entirely in email and over the phone; with my editor at St. Martin's Press, only by email. Even when I got my contract, the reality of this book and what's going to happen hadn't entirely sunk in.
Now it's real.
The MediaBistro event went very well, I thought. The panel was spirited and I don't think I made too big an ass of myself. What I found most interesting from the discussion was how despite the panel's premise (bloggers who were able to transition their online writing to actual book deals), in reality, almost everyone there was successfully pursuing our publishing careers through largely traditional means. Many of the panelists had either begun their blogs after they began the process of being published or had begun their blogs as a part of that process. My book may have grown out of my online writing (although almost none of it is directly used), but my agent was almost entirely unaware of it when she read my proposal, and St. Martin's Press only became aware of the scope of the blog after they taken me on.
Nevertheless, it was also generally agreed that for a writer to be taken seriously in the current marketplace, some sort of online presence was pretty essential, at least for new authors. Editors look at what a writers has online to see how consistent their work is and how committed they seem to be to their craft. If you get Googled and they find some half-assed blog with like four posts from 2002 about your cat, you might not make the big impression you're hoping for. Unless your book is about cats.
After the event, I was able to meet audience members, some of whom had come to the event specifically and a few others who became interested in my work after reading the program notes and hearing me speak. One couple has a child recently diagnosed with autism, and talking to them about taking charge of the process when they don't trust a diagnosis rather than handing over all their trust to doctors. I reminded them that at two points in Schuyler's life (when she was misdiagnosed as PDD-NOS, and when her school in Austin said she wouldn't be capable of using an AAC device), it was NOT trusting what we were told that made the difference for her.
Just having that one conversation on Monday night made me see all over again why I'm doing this.
Meeting my agent and my editor was extraordinary. Sarah Jane Freymann is elegant and refined, and is one of the warmest people I've ever met in my life. I know that this book wasn't easy to sell; it doesn't fit easily into an established genre, and selling it was going to require that just the right agent put it in front of just the right editor. Sarah Jane understood from the beginning what I was trying to do, even better than I did, and in finding Sheila Curry Oakes at St. Martin's Press, she found the same in an editor. I have no illusions about how much I owe them both for believing in this.
When I stepped out of the subway station at 23rd Street and saw the Flatiron Building for the first time, my first reaction was that of a tourist. And then it hit me.
"Holy crap, I have business in that building."
Through it all, Schuyler waits on the other end. She doesn’t care about publishing, or her fancy pants author father. And yet she remains the only reason for any of this, the only reason it matters.