Diary of a First Book, Entry 2: It Ain’t About Unicorns, BitchJuly 26th, 2009
by Suzanne Burns
This book-pimping thing has brought both extreme highs and lows during the first month, as Misfits and Other Heroes has made its way into the world. I have cried and eaten one too many donuts, been routed to an Internet porn site when I Googled myself and been told by a local bookstore owner, “We don’t carry books about unicorns,” when I tried to explain how my short stories hover around the genre of magic realism.
I broke up with my writing group. In those newly immortal words of wisdom, “I just wasn’t that into it.”
I don’t like being critiqued. I don’t take any form of criticism well. I am Irish, Goddamnit.
An article in a local paper, which chronicled my epilepsy more than my book, prompted a local rep to send me a letter on official, fancy stationary that congratulated me for being borderline retarded and still having a life. Extended family members read the book and think I’m a freak. I read one of my stories, “Optical Illusion” to a crowd of quilt making Jesus freaks last week. Not only did they audibly cringe when I read the line about the main character, obsessed with her boyfriend’s glass eye, shoving said eye into her body to get closer to him, after the reading, two people came up to me and said their fathers have glass eyes. Um, wow…
My favorite warm and fuzzy experience so far is trying to book a reading in a store where my ex-boyfriend’s sister-in-law holds court. She sent me a letter asking to justify why I dumped him before she’d agree to sponsoring a reading. (The break-up happened six years ago and he is now happily married.)
Do they make Calgon for showers? My husband, the plumber, can’t even answer this question.
Highlights include a lovely little article in The Oregonian that doesn’t mention anything but the book, a woman who told me she took my book to read on a trip to see her family after her grandpa died and found comfort in it, and a really smart and good writer telling me how much he liked my work in the most elaborate text message I’ve ever received.
The experience has taught me that writing is where it’s at. Hats off to people who can profoundly market themselves without feeling degraded and humiliated. It’s not for me. I love writing. Period. (Or is that exclamation point?) The business end of it feels a little bit like whoring. If this is the case, I need to buy tighter clothes and a push-up bra.
My next reading is in a resort town close to here. The town where the woman who runs the bookstore thinks magic realism means unicorns. I am reading at the library. On the night another writer is coming to the bookstore. My flyers have been taken down all over town. The library put the flyer up by the men’s bathroom. The local paper hasn’t mentioned it while another source got the time and date wrong. I want to eat four donuts for breakfast.
I’m reading in Portland next week. My peeps, my peeps might be there. The ones who “get it.” I’m reading at not only the biggest independent bookstore in the world, but in a doughnut shop. So whether or not I tank, a perfectly scrumptious Voodoo Doughnut will be my reward. And sometimes that kind of reward is all an up-and-coming intellectual can hope for.