Seeing your book for the first time…
Words to describe how it feels to see your book for the first time? Awe, wonder, joy, a little fear, more joy, more awe… and I’m smiling… I absolutely cannot stop smiling, inside and out.
The first sight of your book is when it arrives by the magic of post through your front door. This is a private moment. A moment of wonder as the words that were only inside your head, and then on your laptop, appear in this beautiful physical object that is a book.
It gets handed over to you by the postman or plops through your front door declaring that it is now officially something that is separate to you, and it exists in the world.
The cover, even though you’ve seen it on a jpeg before, shown it to your friends, your family, comes alive in your hands. When What I Couldn’t Tell You arrived I found myself stroking it, turning it over – just the feel of the cover, the weight of the thing – felt like something I needed to get to know. And yet I didn’t want to open it up. In fact I have to admit I didn’t open the book for well over a week after I received it. I was nervous. What if I saw a word or a sentence I didn’t like, a mistake, a word that perhaps I wished I’d changed, that I now couldn’t live with? The fact is that once your story sits in your hands in the shape of a book, it is a fixed thing – it cannot change – and given all you’ve done in the months leading up to this moment is change it, redraft it, edit it, redraft it some more both in your head and on the page, the lack of the possibility of change now is a very scary thing.
When a friend asked me if I was going to read the book, I explained that I wasn’t going to, not yet, that I couldn’t. She was surprised and told me I should just open up the book on a random page and read a sentence – any sentence. She was sure that would cure me of my fears. When I hesitated, she picked up the book, opened it, and read out loud:
We are such stuff
As Dreams are made on;
and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
“There,” she said, “that’s really good.”
“Because that’s Shakespeare! You picked the only line in the book that isn’t actually mine!” I said back.
And we collapsed laughing.
It was just the sort of grounding, the sort of levelling, I needed, because it reminded me that to see the book in the world is something that I should be celebrating not fearing.
I feel very fortunate that What I Couldn’t Tell You has made it to publication, and when I see the book in a bookshop next week I will most definitely be celebrating, and above all else I will be saying a massive thank you to all those brilliant people who made it possible for it to be there at all.
(29 April 2016)