Some Publishing Wisdom from Anne Lamott

Graceling has hit the children’s bestseller list in Italy. Somewhere in a Sicilian graveyard, the spirits of my great-great grandparents are dancing. I think there might be a few people dancing in South Jersey, as well :o)

The Nebula Awards were announced this weekend, and the winner of the Andre Norton Award (for which Graceling was a finalist) is Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, etc., etc. Congrats to Wilce! I haven’t read any Flora books yet, but they’re at the top of my list. I know from talk among my friends that the SFWA made an excellent choice. :o) All the 2008 Nebula winners are here.

The Graveyard Book has been named the ABA’s Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book of the year. It’s also the book I read over the weekend. It made me happy; it’s beautifully written and beautifully simple, and creepy and sad. Congrats to Neil Gaiman. Graceling was named an honor book in the same category, and all the 2008 Indies Choice Book Award winners can be found by poking around here.
So, I announce a lot of happy things here on my blog — but there’s something I’ve been wanting to express about publishing and thrills, buzz, news, reviews, new deals, hip-hip-hooray, and all that stuff. I’ve started a gazillion posts about it, actually, and then abandoned them, because I can’t get the words right.
Then, the other day, I was re-reading Bird by Bird and discovered that Annie Lamott expresses, exactly and beautifully, the very thing I’ve been trying to put into words. Here’s what she says:
One more thing about publication: when this book of mine came out, the one that did pretty well, the one that necessitated the buying of a new dress, I found myself stoned on all the attention, and then lost and derailed, needing a new fix every couple of days and otherwise going into withdrawal. My insides became completely uninhabitable, as if I’d wandered into a penny arcade with lots of bells ringing and lights flashing and lots of junk food, and I’d been there too long. I wanted peace, peace and quiet, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave. I was like one of the bad boys in “Pinocchio” who flock to the island of pleasure and grow donkey ears. I knew my soul was sick and that I needed spiritual advice, and I knew also that this advice shouldn’t be terribly sophisticated. So I went to see the pastor of my son’s preschool.

The pastor is about fifteen. We talked for a while. It turns out he just looks young. I said that I was all over the place, up and down, scattered, high, withdrawing, lost, and in the midst of it all trying to find some elusive sense of serenity. “The world can’t give that serenity,” he said. “The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.”

“I hate that,” I said.

“I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.”

I love every word of that. I find it to be very true to my experience. And here’s one more thing she writes that I find a comforting reminder:

All that I know about the relationship between publication and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings, which is about the first Jamaican bobsled team…. The men on [the] team are desperate to win an Olympic medal…. But the coach says, “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.”

Here’s more about Anne Lamott. Her Bird by Bird is one of very few books on writing that I adore.
Have a peaceful Monday. Try not to be tempted by the penny arcade. It’s a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. :o)