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My newest column for “Countdown to Publication” is all about me getting ready for my book tour. It’s a lot of work both in terms of millions of errands that must be run, the perfect suitcase that must be packed, but also getting my act together emotionally. Here’s en excerpt:
The Silver Sparrow Tour will hit more than thirty cities this summer. Of course I am thrilled to meet so many readers, but thirty is a lot of cities and eight weeks is a long time to be on the road. To prepare, I am basically in training. For the next two months, I will be acting as an ambassador for my novel and I must do a good job, or else what’s the point. Here’s what I’m doing to get ready.
1. Cutting negative people out of my life: Book tour is a vulnerable time, an emotional rollercoaster. Now is the time to be surrounded only by real friends. On the subject of a competitive, jealous, ex-boyfriend,I offer a warning from my publicity guru, Lauren: “ A guy like that will eat your career.” Then she mimed Cookie Monster and I imagined him devouring everything I had worked for. Anybody that’s not making my garden grow has to be put on hold, at least until September. I am usually a pretty patient person, but for book tour, I have to protect myself.
Over at SheWrites, I have posted the latest Countdown To Publication column. This week I am talking about the best way to talk about your book to strangers. Years ago, I published a post about how all novels sound stupid when you describe them. Case in point– Beloved is about this lady who killed her baby and then the baby came back and tried to take her man. Or worse– It’s called Beloved. It’s sort of like a cross between Roots and “Fatal Attraction.”
Part of this problem comes from the pressure to break your labor of love down into a sound bite. The good news is that you don’t have to.
The post is up, and I invite you to go check out. And even leave a comment if you feel like it.
The fabulous new organization, Figment, interviewed me about what advice I would offer to a young writer. (Yes, the project is inspired by Rilke’s “Letters To A Young Poet.”) I was a little surprized at how much I had to say about life, love, writing, love of writing, and love of life.
Here’s a little sample, then run over there and see the rest–
Why must you write? What would you do if you weren’t a writer? (Or, what was the best job you had before becoming an author?)
There are really two reasons that I write. That I write at all is for a selfish reason—it brings me great pleasure. When I have spent the day writing, I feel good about myself, like I am doing what I am meant to do and the thing I enjoy most. But the reason I write the stories I choose to write is more because I think that these stories are important, that there is something of value in knowing what happens to the people I write about. If I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t be anything. People always tell me that this can’t be possible, but it is. It’s like asking me what I would be if I weren’t a person.
What two books do you find indispensable? Who has given you the greatest experience of the essence of creativity, its depths and eternity?
Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks is the most important novel to me. This is the book that showed me that a novel about an ordinary woman living her ordinary life is art, is important and from that I decided that ordinary people are important, too. Just think how that opened up the “what to write about” questions. Stories are every where, you just have to be open to them. Another important book is a collection of poetry, Mercy by Lucille Clifton. The poems there slay me. She can cram the entire world into a three-sentence stanza.
Who has given me the greatest experience of the essence of creativity?Sadly, I don’t think that has happened to me yet, which is probably good, because after that, I suppose my journey would be over.
I reviewed The Long Song by Andrea Levy for The Washington Post.
Levy’s previous novel, “Small Island,” is rightly regarded as a masterpiece, and with “The Long Song” she has returned to the level of storytelling that earned her the Orange Prize in 2004. Her heroine narrates the beginning of the end of slavery in Jamaica, coming to a climax with the 1831 Baptist War, when enslaved men and women fought their enslavers for 10 days. It’s clear that Levy has done her research, but this work never intrudes upon the narrative, which travels at a jaunty pace. Levy’s sly humor swims just under the surface of the most treacherous waters. (For example, a shocking suicide is preceded by a delightful farce.) Her refusal to reduce her characters to merely their suffering does not trivialize the experience of enslavement, but underscores the humanity of all involved.