Last night when I was leaving, there was a box on the porch. I was pretty sure that I knew what it was, but I left it there and went on my errands.
When Joe and I got home last night, it was still there.
I brought it in and put it on the counter, and that box and I had a bit of a staring match in the kitchen. It won, so I opened it, half scared, half thrilled, half flipped out. (I know that adds up to 1.5, which is probably why it felt so strange.) I put my hand in the box and pulled out the contents – two books wrapped in brown paper, and I carried them into the living room without unwrapping them. I went back to the kitchen and got a largish glass of wine, and then slowly unwrapped the package on my lap.
It is an actual book, made out of an actual manuscript that I actually wrote. It’s All Wound Up, and it is (Joe and I had to count last night) book number seven.
It is very beautiful. I held it, and noted all sorts of details. That it has an orange spine. (I love that) That they are still using the old author photo that makes me look unreasonably young and beautiful (I love that too.) That the book feels good in your hands, has nice paper, feels like it’s the right weight, and especially that it looks related to the other books of essays that I’ve produced over the years. It feels to me like getting a sister, or a cousin in the family, and I’m glad it looks that way. I turned it over and over, and then opened it, and started to read at random spots.
There is virtually no way for me to describe to you (except for those of you who are authors) the feeling that is reading a book that you wrote. The words that I wrote in a notebook or on my computer, now suddenly on pages – The hours and hours of swearing and laughing and crumpling things up and getting up at two in the morning because I’d had an idea and it was a good one, or even the heartbreak of writing for hours and figuring out it was all crap and could never, ever be allowed to see the light of day for even one second… all of that experience, condensed into a book that will go to bookshops and into your homes?
It’s like standing in the bushes outside of a school so you can see your child playing inside, or the first time you go into the place where your teenager works and see them doing just that. It’s the disorienting feeling of seeing someone you know really well, someone you understand completely in a certain context – suddenly transported to this more formal independent place where suddenly they are their whole own thing, large and real and bigger than you imagined, moving to a place without you.
This book is quite possibly the hardest won of all of them. We have all had (or will have) an Annus Horribilis, and the one designated for this family fell smack in the middle of writing this book. I struggled to write it. There are writers who will tell you that they are not complete without writing. Writers who will tell you that they need to write the way they need air, food or yarn. Writers who tell you that they would do it whether they had to or not, just to be fulfilled as a person.
I am not that sort of writer. I probably would write whether I had to do it or not, but mostly I look at it as my job, and smack in the middle of a crisis or ten, like most people, I would rather not go to work, but had to. What I wrote then didn’t make it into this book. It was not bad writing. It was wonderful writing. It was – however, writing produced in the middle of grief and sadness and learning and when I looked at it, I realized that it was – almost all of it, more intimate, more raw, and more naked than I had intended for it to be. It felt like being caught crying at work…topless.)
I tried then to soften it. To cover its nudity with more words and fewer details and at some point I realized that I had dressed it to the point that it didn’t even look like me – and I started over. I realized that book- whatever I had written, was something for another time, when wounds were healed, and I put it in a drawer, and went for long walks, and long talks, and sat back down and wrote again, and what I had at the end of that was the book that arrived last night.
It is my favourite.
If you’ve been reading for a long time you might recognize a few old stories, (Joe and the truck, for starters) but that’s only two out of twenty-nine stories. The rest are new, and I think you’ll love them. There’s a bunch that are funny, and a bunch that are something else, and there’s one in there that left and returned to the manuscript about ten times, because it is a little close to that public nudity I mentioned, but in the end it felt good to put it there. An homage to the book and the place I moved through to get here. I’m sure you’ll see it when it goes by.
It has been two years since I had a book published. It feels like forever. There will be a tour. I will be on the road and hopefully, if things are the same way between us, I’ll meet a bunch of you and see a bunch of you again.
I’m delighted. I’m proud. I’m scared too.
I’m holding a book, and I wrote it, and that never gets old.
(PS. I know some of you will pre-order this book online, and that’s great and I’m exceedingly grateful, but if you are considering buying the book (or any book, really) could I ask a favour? Would you consider buying it at your local bookstore? I think it’s "use it or lose it" time for a lot of them, and they’re the ones who make things like tours and author readings and signings possible. Buying the book at the store is a nice way to thank them for hosting knitters, and make it possible for us to keep meeting like this.)
(PPS. It is the first book of mine that says "New York Times Bestselling Author" on it, and I can’t tell you how much I like it. I know that’s prideful, but I can’t help it.)