Teaching middle school last year wiped me out like you wouldn’t believe, so when it became clear that the school where I was teaching was a terrible fit (through no fault of the students’ – or most of them, at least) and the other places where I was interviewing didn’t ignite serious passion in my teacher heart, I made kind of a wild decision, by most standards: I decided to spend the next school year writing – hopefully finishing, finally – my second book.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m finished with teaching. Far from it. I fully plan to go back full-time teaching work next year, but for now I’m on sabbatical, writing every weekday morning and tutoring/subbing in the afternoons if and when I’m needed. This is, just like last time (-_-), a choice I’m lucky to be able to make because I have a very inexpensive living situation (one of the last in the Bay Area) and some money saved up – and, just like last time, it’s what I need to be able to focus on my first passion: writing. I’ve always admired writers who can hold down a full-time job and take care of their kids and write a book a year, but I have to acknowledge my limits and work within them, so that’s what I’m doing.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I didn’t launch right into the work. First I decompressed from an extremely hard year by going on a very long (and not always relaxing!) trip through Western Europe with my boyfriend. We went to Berlin, where I’d never been, and all through Italy, where he’d never been, and spent three weeks in the south of France with my friend and her family – it was lovely and tiring and trying and inspiring all at once. And when we got back we moved in together. So it’s been a long summer of not-writing. But September first is my hard deadline for picking up on the second book again, and in the meantime I’ve been working toward a different goal with Navel Gazing and fighting the hard-trolling of literary fate.
If you don’t know what trolling is, lucky you! It’s when people (usually) bait others, either teasingly or maliciously; you see the nastier form in the comments sections on web articles, and the more benign form is common among siblings. The malignant is, sadly, more widespread, but I’ve been lucky in life (so far) and mostly experienced the milder kind. And this latest version isn’t even coming from a person, nor is it directed at me, really; it just feels that way.
It started with Michael Ian Black’s new book: Navel Gazing. Yup, you read that right. A relatively well-known comedian from my childhood wrote a book about bodies and named it Navel Gazing. I found out about it about a year ago, and for the past six months he’s been promoting it, and I’ve been getting texts from friends and family asking if I know about it. Oh, I do. And I have been trying not to take it personally, but it’s getting harder (more on that later).
And then I was betrayed by Magic Lessons, a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert that I adore – it saved me from a deep pit of literary depression last winter, and I was so excited for the new season to start right as I geared up to get back into writing. I even applied to be on it as a supplicant. And in fact the first episode of the new season did feature someone named Anne! But…I never got a phone call from Liz…yeah. It was another Anne. As my boyfriend said, “a clerical error, surely.” I survived the episode, but I have to admit that every time Liz addressed Anne directly it hurt my tender writer’s heart.
Episode two was sure to be easier to listen to, right? Well…the guest wasn’t named Anne, but the artist Liz consulted about the guest’s creative block was, you guessed it, Michael Ian Black. Promoting his new book, Navel Gazing. I skipped that episode – there’s only so much one fragile little ego can handle when it’s trying to convince itself that all its upcoming struggles won’t all be for naught.
And then this week, as I worked to get my Navel Gazing ready for self-publication on Amazon (more on that later), I was thinking about how to create a cover and I did a Google image search as a shortcut to my book jacket for ideas, and I found his. See if you can understand my reaction:
Michael Ian Black’s jacket:
Now that, my friends, is some hard trolling! Okay, universe, I get it: Michael Ian Black is more popular than I am. He has a real platform in this and other countries. He is already a bestseller with hella reviews on Amazon. I can’t compete with that, but you know what? I never expected to compete with bestsellers. I just wanted to write down my story, and hopefully make other people with similar stories feel less alone. And that has happened! I’ve gotten so many amazing responses from readers, and hey, my book was published! I’m still in shock about that stroke of luck.
Don’t get me wrong, though: I still have a thin shred of competitive business nature in my bones, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some famous dude have all the credit for my brilliant title and Faber’s brilliant jacket. If anything his book lit a fire under my ass to get NG out there into non-Faber territories, including the U.S. – and that’s exactly what I did yesterday! It took two weeks of tweaking the Word Doc and converting file after file (I always seem to find typos etc after conversion) and a long morning of hard work in Illustrator by my boyfriend and plenty of googling of legalese, but eventually I had a pretty good file and a pretty cool jacket and a basic understanding of the business side, and I took a deep breath and hit ‘Publish.’
And just like that, Navel Gazing: One Woman’s Quest for a Size Normal is available in the U.S. (among other territories I could be sure weren’t part of the Commonwealth)! Of course I never did get the ToC to link (I’ll update the file as soon as I sort that) and I found a typo in the description right after I published it (that should be fixed in the next couple of hours, once the edit clears), but the fact remains that my book baby is available here now, and I am so beyond thrilled!
If you’ve already read NG, I beg you to leave an honest review on the U.S. eBook version – she’s so lonely and starless out there – and if you haven’t read it an have wanted to, please hop on over and buy it and then leave an honest review! It’s $7.99 right now but I will also do some promotional pricing soon. Thank you all so much for all your support, especially those of you who went through major inconvenience to get a copy of the book from the U.K. while living elsewhere. You really are the best readers ever and I wouldn’t trade with MIB for anything 😉
P.S. I also have a new Author page on Amazon, if you’re into that kind of thing.
P.P.S. While googling the book for this project, I also stumbled across this amazing review for NG on the blog Coffee and Conversations and my heart exploded a little.