Releasing a new book is a contradictory experience. Communal and lonely. Exciting and anti-climactic. Fulfilling and empty.
Happy and terrifying.
The thing is, I write teen novels because I vividly remember that time of my life. And not because it was all wonderful, though it wasn’t totally awful either. It was contradictory, like launching a novel into the ether. I could feel safe, loved, and joyful with my friends one minute and the next become completely vulnerable in the midst of – well, let’s call them “less supportive” peers.
I stayed pretty quiet to keep out of the mean kids’ line of fire, but it didn’t always work.
I still remember being in my high school library one day, looking at books in the stacks of shelves, when I heard some girls talking bad about me. Trashing my looks, my clothes, my general personality. When I peeked through gaps to see who was talking, I saw two girls I barely knew, rarely spoke to directly, never hung around with.
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was an epiphany for me, a freeing one. I realized some people would dislike me for no good reason, it had nothing to do with my actual worthiness, and I could do little to change it. More importantly, I discovered their words didn’t hurt all that much, had no bearing on me one way or another.
So here I am some years later, feeling a bit like that girl in the library stacks: a swirl of insecurities, hopes, and certainties. The teen Brenda is reminding me of the lesson from that day: Go ahead and be yourself; some people will like you, and some won’t, and that’s OK.
I happened serendipitously across this quote from writer and scholar Roxane Gay this morning: “We are all small points of light within the constellation that is the writing world, but we do better when we shine brightly.”
And I knew to take in a deep breath and let it out slowly.