God bless indies! Look at this display in the window of Watchung Booksellers in Montclair. No matter how small the order at Barnes & Noble, it feels good when you get a display like this in your hometown store. Montclair Book Center also had a copy in the window. And a friend of mine a few towns over couldn’t find “Cars from a Marriage” at Borders, but had no trouble picking one up at Sages Pages in Madison.
So, publication day. Been dreading it for quite a while, as I explain in a guest post in Christina Baker Kline’s fine writing blog “A Writing Life.” I’ve known for weeks that St. Martin’s wasn’t buying co-op at Barnes & Noble for this book, which means that nobody is going to bump into it by accident in the front of the store. Publishing can make a person feel very, very small.
But, maybe because I set my expectations so low, pub day wasn’t as bad as I expected. Partly because I doped myself up with Darvocet after I woke up with sharp back pain. Partly because I got to help Kristie file stories today on a 60-styles protest at Montclair High School. Partly because I got a ton of good wishes from friends on Facebook. Because Warren called me from work, with tape of a parade rolling in the background, pretending he was calling from the “Cars from a Marriage” parade. Because it was sunny and beautiful. And because I visited the new mid-century furniture store in Montclair.
And then there was this really cosmic moment, doing some stretches on the living room floor, when I looked up and saw all the family pictures on the wall going up the staircase. Pictures of my old Jewish grandparents, long deceased, and Warren’s too. And it struck me how proud they would be, all those greenhorns, at the idea that a granddaughter, born in America, would be an author.
Years ago, when my grandfather Sam died, in days when parents thought that it wasn’t healthy for kids to go to funerals, my parents went away and left us for a few days with some family friends.
Those were dark days. I harbored a secret guilt about my grandfather’s death. He’d had a heart attack, and I’d sent him a homemade get well card, and with the magical thinking that children are prone to, I imagined that it was my card, somehow, that had done him in. I was also sure my mother would never be happy again.
When my parents came back, they brought me a present: my grandfather’s business typewriter. It typed in fancy script and had a red-and-black ribbon that made letters bi-colored when you used the shift key.
“Because you’re a writer,” they said, smiling.
I’d never imagined that after such an awful trip to the land of Death, my parents would come back with a present. But the present wasn’t just a machine with round metal buttons and a red-and-black ribbon
The gift was being called a writer. A vision, way back then, to a distant publication day.
Photo of Watchung Booksellers display by the lovely and talented Bernadette Baum.