Five things I learned from having a book out

By | December 13, 2018

Guest post by Stephanie Vanderslice

A year ago I was awaiting the publication of my book, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, and planning a December launch party, complete with hot cocoa bar and favors (because Pinterest is my weakness).   I had no way of knowing what awaited me and how much I would learn when this, the most personal of my books, debuted from Bloomsbury.  And it’s been a year.  A year of lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way, a year of lessons I’m grateful for as I continue on my writing journey. Here are the top five:

  1. Promoting a book is harder than it looks, especially in-person promotion.  To be honest, it also feels a little weird, especially if you’re an introvert who’s not necessarily comfortable with a lot of attention.  I liken it to planning a wedding—choosing invitations, selecting a pretty, yummy cake, choosing the “dress”—it’s all fun and games until you realize you’re the entertainment.  But I learned to just go with it and be grateful for the support.
  2. Speaking of support—I was humbled by it, especially by the kind things people in my life did and said, in person and on social media.  I will always feel grateful for the ways my community supported me and remember that whenever sending good wishes for others out into the world.  Honestly, there have been many times over the past year that I felt like Lou Gehrig on his last day in baseball, like the“luckiest gal on the face of the earth.”
  3. People you don’t expect to read your book will read it and reach out to you with heartfelt messages about ways it impacted them.  People in your community and people halfway around the world. This in itself is a great gift and will go along way towards preparing you for the fact that:
  4. Some people who you expected might read your book won’t.  And this is perfectly fine and nothing to take personally.  People are breathtakingly busy, your book might not be their thing, reading might not even be their thing.  Heck, reading totally IS my thing and I don’t read all the books I want to read in any given year, not by a long shot.   Although I do confess to being a little disappointed when my students don’t read the book, not out of ego but because there is a lot of advice on the writing life in there, advice that I can’t necessarily fit into class and that they’re missing out on. 
  5. The best antidote to the commotion of having a book out—and actually, with Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught, also from Bloomsbury, coming out in July 2017, this year I had two—is more writing. I’ve been working on two long-term projects this past year—one fiction and one nonfiction—and not only have they given me the solitude and the time inside my head that an introvert craves, they remind me of what The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life was really all about:  Being a writer is about doing the writing more than anything else.  It’s nice to hold a book in your hand but the real work of writing is down in the trenches with the first drafts, and second drafts, and third drafts and so on.  Putting one word in front of another.  As long as you’re doing that, you’re winning.

PS:  I can’t resist the temptation to share that The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life made The Writer magazine’s list of top five books for writers in 2018.  Since I’ve read The Writer since I was a fifteen year old just beginning to aspire to a writing life, being on this list is really a dream come true. Thanks The Writer editors!

The Geek's Guide to the Writing Life

Stephanie Vanderslice is Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Arkansas Writer’s MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas, USA and is the Chairperson of the Creative Writing Studies Organization. Her column, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life appears regularly in the Huffington Post. She publishes fiction, nonfiction and creative writing criticism including Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing PedagogyTeaching Creative Writing to Undergraduates: A Guide and Sourcebook Rethinking Creative Writing. Her book The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life is available from Bloomsbury.

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