Everything I don’t know on the eve of my first book launch – Gretchen Anthony

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By Gretchen Anthony

As I write this, my debut novel, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, launches in just about two weeks. So, recently, a friend asked me how I was feeling.

“Pretty much the same way I did before having my first baby” I told her. “There’s no way of knowing what you’re in for, and you only get to do it once.” There’s no turning back.

I’ve taken all sorts of risks in my life, parenthood notwithstanding. I’ve travelled to rainforests and mountains and deserts. I’ve moved across the country without knowing a single person on the other side. I’ve jumped into jobs that – some for better and some for worse – offered challenges I’d never tackled before. And throughout it all, I’ve written. A lot. I am a writer, after all. I wrote everything from essays to emails, both personal and professional. But never a novel. Until now. And in just about two weeks, anyone who wants to can read it.

So, just as during my pregnancies, I have questions. The sorts of questions that can’t be answered with anything but first-hand experience.

For starters, will readers like the book? Some won’t, I’m sure. That’s a given. But will I be able to tell the difference between the fans and the haters? Sentiments like, “It’s so great!” don’t prove that a person liked my book any more than a person’s silence means she didn’t. I recently saw an author write on Twitter that, at every one of her events, there’s at least one man who claims to have superior expertise on her topic, only to then admit he hasn’t read her book.

Note to self: Tweet that author and ask her advice on how to gracefully handle the nay-sayers.

Another question. What sort of transition should I expect? I made a career in corporate communication, so I’ve been a professional writer for decades. Now, I’ll be a published author. That designation brings new expectations and responsibilities and learning curves. What’s the advice on making a successful transition? No, that’s not the right question; there’s too much advice coming my way. The better question is, What advice should I ignore? Which mistakes are, with preparation, avoidable?

Note to self: Don’t forget to ask for help when I need it. You’re not alone in this.

Still more questions. About the after part. What will life be like after the excitement of launch and book tour? After the interest in my book dies down? Will I feel more like a writer, or less? Will I be more confident, or shaken? Will I even want to do it all over again?

Note to self: Your next manuscript is due. Quit sweating the future and get back to work.

This debut author adventure may change a lot about my life – some for better and some, maybe, for worse. Perhaps, rather than dwelling on my questions, I’d better serve myself by focusing on what I know to be true, regardless of time or place: I’m still me. Even after launch, I’ll still get my kids on the school bus in the morning and laugh with my family over dinner and watch the news with my husband at night. I’ll still misplace my glasses and forget to answer emails and feel forever behind on my to-do list. I’ll still rely on my friends and try earnestly to repay the blessing of their friendships. I’ll still attempt to behave as a decent human being and citizen. And I’ll still screw up it all up sometimes.

Two weeks from now, lots of things may be different. I don’t know what. But I do know that in order to get wherever it is I’m headed, I looked at the risks, and took a step forward, anyway.

Gretchen Anthony is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, available now from Park Row Books, a division of HarperCollins.


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