Friday, August 26, 2011

You ARE a real author, dammit (still! always! yes!)

I've found myself at a lot of book signing events lately. The most perplexing thing about that is that I'm the one doing the signing.

I still can't wrap my brain around that, but if you happen to be in Oregon and you're craving a trip to the coast this weekend, I'd love to see you at the Northwest Author Fair on Saturday, where more than 60 authors from around the region will be hanging out hoping it doesn't rain on us.

The fact that I've been allowed out in public with my author hat on a lot lately has me thinking about a blog post I wrote 16 months ago – just a few months after my agent landed me this amazing three-book deal with Sourcebooks. I was responding to the way people began treating me differently once they learned I had a book deal.

Now that the book has been on the shelves a few weeks and seems to be getting a lot of very lovely buzz, I'm noticing it even more. For that reason, I want to resurrect the post.

I'm editing a couple words from the original to reflect a change in marital status, well, it's my blog, and I can do stuff like that. And I suppose I should change my age from 35 to 37. Oh, and I guess I have to knock a few pounds off my weight because going through divorce means you eat a lot of cold cereal and frozen peas for dinner.

But otherwise, it's the same damn post that ran last April. I still believe every word of it.

So should you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You ARE a real author, dammit

There’s a list of questions you aren’t supposed to ask a woman, and I’ve never minded answering any of them.

I’ll cheerfully tell you my age (37), my height and weight (5’4” and 113 pounds), or the reason I never had kids (I didn't particularly want them).

But until eight weeks ago, there was one question I truly dreaded:

How many books have you published?

Though the answer now is the same as it was eight weeks ago (none, yet), I can at least follow up by giving details of my upcoming releases.

But I still hate the question. Because let’s face it, the reason the person is asking is to determine if they’re talking to a “real author,” or…well, something less than that.

And that’s an implication that makes me uncomfortable even now that I have a three-book deal that apparently entitles me to carry the “real author” license.

It’s not just people unfamiliar with the publishing industry who seem hell-bent on distinguishing between “real authors” and whatever the opposite of that would be (unreal authors?) We do it ourselves as authors every time we sell ourselves short and allow people to make us feel inferior for the mere fact that we haven’t yet reached that next stage.

I guess this is why I find myself bristling now when someone suddenly treats me differently upon learning about my book deal. There’s a certain level of respect that comes along with that, and I’m not entirely comfortable with it.

I know I sound like an ungrateful bitch, but that’s not it at all. The thing is, I’m the same damn author I was eight weeks ago. Or eight years ago.

If you want to split hairs, two of the three books in my contract started with partial manuscripts I wrote nearly three years ago under a previous agent who just wasn't interested in them. These are the same damn books my current agent adores and my new editor recently gushed over, saying, “everyone here is just in love with your voice.”

So I haven’t changed, right?

But I have, at least in the eyes of writers and non-writers alike. In some ways, this makes my heart swell like a boner in a bad porn.

In other ways, it makes me angry. I’m angry on behalf of every author who’s ever felt sub-par because the magic wand of dumb luck hasn’t yet waved over her head and granted her an agent or a book deal or the level of respect she deserves just for trying to break into publishing.

Writing books is hard work. Everyone who’s ever attempted it deserves the “real author” label and all the respect that seems to come with it.

Whether you’re a brand new writer with distant dreams of publication or someone who’s lost count of the number of weeks spent on the New York Times Bestseller list, you’re still a “real author.”

You have to remember that. The world is primed to make the unpublished author feel inferior, and that can kill your self esteem even more than a bad critique or an outright rejection.

You are a “real author.”

Now go write some real books, dammit.


Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

Hurray for you! I loved that post then, and I love it now!

Of COURSE we are authors. Once we have written our first chapter, we are the author of that chapter. I try to convince my students in college of this. They tell me, "Well, it's not like I'm a REAL writer," and I respond, "Yes, you are." And I hand them the essay they wrote. The fact that it wasn't picked up by THE NEW YORKER is immaterial.

Thanks! I feel as if I've been hugged and shooed towards my computer! I'm off to keep writing.

Unknown said...

I love you for this :) I needed it. XOXO

Julia Broadbooks said...

Thanks for the reminder to take my work seriously, even if other people don't always.

Patrick Alan said...

You look taller in photos, except when you stand next to shorter people I have met in person.

Rebecca S said...

Thank you for this, it's nice to be remembered that I actually am an author (even though it has never been printed in book form). I've written 3 books (manuscripts) at the age of 18, and am about to attempt my 4th.

I love the writing community for this, that we're all equals even though one may have published 15 books, and one haven't: we're all sharing the passion, and we've all either been struggling or are struggling.

So, now I'm going to write something (cause this reminder feels like it may have cured my writer's block (wow!))

April said...

This is one of the first lessons I learned as a writer. You have to take yourself seriously if you expect anyone else to. Thanks for the motivation.

Jason said...


Sound familiar? :) Thank you, Lani.

kel said...

I feel like you are a peeping Tom into my thoughts.

Thank you for this post, it reminds me of why I keep trying. You are inspiring!

Sadie Hart said...

This is something I have to keep reminding myself. Has the magic wand deigned to bounce on my head yet? No. But I'm still a real author.

Though I still really hate the question: How many books have you had published? -sigh-

K.B. Owen said...

Thanks, Tawna. You've helped me feel tons better. :)

Jean Paradis said...

Loved your blog, and your book. I read it on the 12 hour car ride back from taking my baby to college. I needed the escape, and the giggles. As for the the real writer thing, my first published novella came out in June with Red Sage, because it's a digital release I've been feeling the 'it's not a real book so I'm not a real author thing too.' Thanks for the ego boost.

Rachel Brooks said...

This is a great post! We've all been there when people have given us that look because we don't have a book published. It's the "oh, you're just chasing a silly pipe dream" look or the "everyone says they're a writer these days" look.

Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm an author. Just not a paid one yet! lol

Murr Brewster said...

God help me, but I tend to think of myself as a real writer, and to think of the (millions of) people who have rejected me as having missed a bet. I see no reason to sharpen up the line between self-esteem and self-delusion. I'm comfy with it smudgy.

Kathleen said...

Thanks Tawna, I needed to hear this today!

Blaire Kensley said...

Thanks! I really needed to hear that. -The Unpublished "Real Author" ;-)