This morning the doorbell rang at ten o’clock. A FedEx driver handed me a thin package. When I turned it over I saw that it was from University of Minnesota Press, my publisher. I tore it open and there it was—my book. The cover is so smooth, matte finish, just as I’d hoped. It’s paperback, but it has inside flaps, like a hardcover. It’s gorgeous.
I squealed, then I promptly burst into tears. And let me be clear: I did not gracefully shed a couple of tears. I wept. I sobbed. I wondered what the hell was happening. I was completely flabbergasted, but I couldn’t stop crying.
This was very different than last year, when I received my box of copies of Use Your Words from Viva Editions. That day, I sliced open the box, grabbed a copy of my book and jumped up and down, screaming. I screamed so much, in fact, that Stella actually told me to get a hold of myself. “Geez, Mom.”
But this book is different. I started work on it nine and a half years ago. I wrote it, revised it, had it rejected, wrote it again, revised it again, had it rejected some more. Through all of that I didn’t give up believing in the book. Well, okay some days I guess I did, but most of the time I just kept at it. When I’d get a rejection, I’d usually lace up my running shoes and head to the river road. (And then drink some wine.) After a particularly nasty agent rejection—The book would be so much better if you were more like Anne Lamott—I ran the fastest seven miles I’d ever run. I was crying and laughing and swearing the whole way, and I’m sure I looked insane, but when I got home I felt better.
Rejection is never easy, but it got easier. After a while, if an agent or editor didn’t love the book, I reasoned that didn’t want them anyway. So I kept writing, kept revising, made the book the best book I could write.
But this is the thing. All of that submitting and writing and rewriting is exhausting. All of that constantly putting yourself out there, hoping hoping, is exhausting. And so today, when I held that book in my hands—that book that might as well contain a piece of each of my organs—well, all of that other stuff came rushing out, too. All of those years of trying not to be discouraged, of not giving up, all that energy I expended, all the tears I shed. It all whooshed right out of me, and I sobbed and sobbed, grateful and exhausted. And then I called Donny and sobbed through an explanation of why I was sobbing, and he started laughing, and I felt so grateful for him, for putting up with me all these years, for always believing the book would find the right home, which it has. Which it really has.
But still, I couldn’t stop crying. I realized I wasn’t going to get anything done in that state, so I laced up my running shoes, grabbed my iPod, and headed toward the river. I cried some more and let all those other post-rejection runs seep into this one. And then I ran past them until it was just me now, me with this book that I’ve worked so f*%#ing hard on. It started to rain, and I shivered as I ran over the Mississippi River, picking up my pace. Then I shook out my arms, let out a couple of boisterous whoops, and pumped my fist into the air.
And that’s why you never give up.