Thursday, March 29, 2012

Road to Publication: ABOVE

Five years ago next week, I started a book.

Wasn't news, really: I've started probably a dozen books. Some of them were finished and I hated them at the end. Some of them were finished and sent looking for an agent, and they weren't good enough to get one (and that got obvious fast). Some of them just fizzled out and were put away in the back of my hard drive. I don't know how much mileage one can get out of taking umbrage with a 1980s TV show and one obsessive-making song, I said, in the blog post where I noted I'd started a book, but...we'll see if we can get it past 35k.

Totally famous last words, right?

of course, but not in the way you'd think. By June the book had fizzled: I was pushing through my last year of university on way too big a courseload, and working part-time to pay for that, and couldn't stick together setting and characters and themes and come out with plot. I got frustrated. I put the book away. It sat.

Thing is, in January, I picked it back up.

And put it down in February.

And picked it back up.


There are lots of stories about how writers get agents, how the agents send books to publishers, how the publishers reject or accept those books and they eventually find their way into print. They're all different, mostly because every book and writer is different.

My "road to publication", though? Here's my road to publication:

I graduated from university and binge-wrote 40,000 words in the three weeks afterwards, when I had nothing to do but look for work. I got a Toronto Arts Council grant to do the first and second revisions of Above, and it kept a roof over my head for a month while I did job interviews. I got a full-time job, and revised and picked and queried agents around working hours. My sister got married, and I took notes during dress fittings. I signed with an agent. I got a lot of novel rejections, decided maybe this wasn't going to happen after all, mourned the idea of being a professional novelist, and started putting my energy into urban agriculture and politics.

The book sold, and I had to rebalance all that energy and figure out an entirely new life where both of those things fit.

I moved from the neighbourhood I'd lived in for seven years into a different one that fit me much better, and gained a roommate who's one of my best friends. I went to Arizona and Boston and Vancouver and Seattle and San Diego. My grandmother died, and it broke my heart, and two hours before the funeral my editor called to tell me they were flying me to the sales conference in New York, just as I was typing out the last line of the eulogy. I wrote on coffeeshop patios, in bars, at home on the couch, in hotel rooms, at my desk, in noodle shops on Spadina Avenue. I started--and stopped--dating about five guys (not at once; it was all very orderly, I swear), each of whom got a varying version of the "You're a writer?" talk. I saw a lot of live music. I stayed up all night at a city council meeting and drank bleary six a.m. coffee with strangers. I broke my glasses in a public pillow fight and dyed my hair blue and started singing again. I spent a year filling out funding applications and building freelance work and arranging things so I could afford, for a little bit, to write full-time. Starting tomorrow.

In other words? Life happened.

Thing is, I just kept picking that book back up, no matter where I was.


I'm a different person than I was when I started that book, five years ago. If I think about it too long it's kind of scary and staggering just how different I am. But Above was always there; I was always either writing it or revising it, on my own or for my agent or editor, or talking about cover copy and launch activities. Checking its Goodreads reviews every night before bed.

(I am typing this on my lunch, at work. A co-worker just brought up a copy and asked me to sign it for her grandson. I brushed my finger over the embossing on the cover when I gave it back to her. This is not a thing I ever thought would be my life. This is not an idea of normal I am used to.)

And that's my road to publication. It's, and the way this book is entwined with it. It's everything else I was doing along the way. And how I kept pausing, anyways, to go do that. And now it's coming out and will be, in a sense, gone. And life moves on.


I'm working on another book. I've been picking at it since last summer. It keeps stalling and fizzling, and I keep putting it back down.

Thing is, I keep picking it back up.


  1. This is one of the best publication stories I've read. Thanks for being so honest and, well, normal :)

  2. I agree with Melissa. This is a beautiful, heartfelt story. Of course, my favorite part is: "I started--and stopped--dating about five guys (not at once; it was all very orderly, I swear)".

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Great story. It's very inspiring! And very encouraging.