Are you writing a book?
Have you ever written a book?
Do you have any plans to write a book?
If you answered “no” to all three questions, welcome to the club. These days, it’s very small. Especially here in Beaufort.
Our Wholly Holistics columnist Katherine Tandy Brown emailed me last week, saying, “As I was attending my sixth local book signing last night, it occurred to me that a neat WH column would be to give a shout-out to local writers that have books just published and/or coming out soon.” I thought it was a great idea and told her so.
We discussed it in person the next evening at – you guessed it – a local book signing. You can read Katherine’s column here. By the way, I believe she is currently writing a book.
To be honest, books are giving me fits lately. We’re in a love-hate relationship. I love them because… well, they’re books. I hate them because they are multiplying around me like spring flowers – teasing me, but playing hard to get, overwhelming me with their presence, yet largely unattainable. I have responsibilities, you see. Things I must do. And there they sit in stacks around my house, distracting me with their flashy covers, giving me their come-hither looks.
“You know you want me,” they seem to say, as I sit hunched at my computer, editing articles and answering emails and webmastering (webmistressing?) for our publications.
Jeff brings them home from the office on a regular basis. “Somebody sent you another book,” he’ll say, plunking the package on my desk with a thud. Sigh. My shoulders slump. I feel put upon.
And I feel like a schmuck, too. Beaufort teenagers are out there fighting to keep books in their school libraries and here I am, all “woe is me, I’ve got too many books.” To paraphrase my favorite line from that cinematic masterpiece Guardians of the Galaxy, “What an a-hole.”
Some of these books live on my Kindle, as digital files or manuscripts, where they vie for my attention every time I open it – the attention I promised their authors, along with coverage in this paper. And I want to give each its due. And I really do try.
I was invited to interview the celebrated nature writer John Lane on stage at the Conroy Center’s March Forth event a few weeks back, and in preparation I read his two most recent collections of essays. (He seems to churn one out every year or so, and I wanted to be current.) After that, I read John Warley’s new legal thriller, Jury of One, and interviewed him for this paper. For every John and John that I get around to, there are at least three or four other local or visiting writers who’ve asked for a review or a feature or a blurb. I need a clone!
Then there are the books I’m supposed to be reading for my book club, a group of wonderful women I’ve been reading with – and drinking with – for almost 15 years. We’re meeting tonight, in fact, and I will be that dreaded Book Club Monster – the one who didn’t finish the book. It’s a damn shame, too, because I did start the book – after reading the three I just mentioned – and it’s absolutely brilliant so far. (Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead.) But tonight, the rest of that reading experience will be spoiled for me because I would never ask my friends to limit their discussion just because one lame-o didn’t have time to finish. I could always just skip the meeting, but then I’d miss the drinking-with-friends part. No book is thatgood.
As fate would have it, I’d taken a break from writing this column to scroll Facebook – hey, it happens – when a “memory” suddenly appeared on my feed, something I’d written eight years ago on the very same date. The timing was so uncanny, it felt like a message from the universe. The post read:
“Y’all, I’m feeling inundated over here. In the last week or so, I’ve received probably 7 or 8 books – all with ties to this area – that are ALL coming out in May. Everybody wants a review, an author interview, an article, etc. etc… I feel so honored to receive these books, and I don’t take them lightly. If I had my dream life, I would do nothing but read and review books. Unfortunately, I’m not living the dream. I guess some big papers still have ‘book editors’ and book review sections. It is my great heartbreak that Lowcountry Weekly does not. But we will do the best we can! Long live the book!”
So maybe this is a seasonal thing? Maybe springtime is always book time and this too shall pass?
But it truly seems like more people are writing books these days, doesn’t it? Every time I turn around, somebody I know – or know of – is publishing a “debut novel.” Or memoir. Or book of poetry. People of all ages and stages of life. Thumb through this very publication and you’ll be hard pressed to find an article that’s not about somebody’s new book.
And all my griping aside, I think it’s wonderful. What an enormous accomplishment, writing a book! What a lifetime achievement!
Or, so I would imagine.
A fellow journalist asked me recently, “When are you writing a book?” I responded, “Um, probably never.” He seemed genuinely surprised. Told me that writing a book is “the only way to get ahead in this business.”
That may very well be true. “Getting ahead” is a nebulous concept to me and I’m not sure I’ve ever consciously pursued it. I’m usually just grateful if I’m not demonstrably “falling behind.”
But my friend wasn’t the first to ask me that question. People ask it regularly. “When are you writing your book?” As if it were only a matter of time. As if I should really stop dragging my feet. With book writing being all the rage – with everybody and their brother writing one – who can blame them, really?
When I tell people I have no current plans to write a book, they want to know why.
“I’m not that kind of writer,” I respond. A little defiant. And maybe a little defensive.
Because it feels like at the heart of that question lurks an unpleasant judgment. And that unpleasant judgment is this: If you don’t write books – if you only write articles and essays and various ephemeral musings – you’re not a real writer.
And here’s the thing: I’m not sure if that judgment is theirs – or mine.