Two weeks ago, I signed a book contract.
I’m coauthoring a critical introduction to American women writers that will be published by Routledge in December 2014. ::begin screaming that ends some time after the complete manuscript is due June 1::
I have felt (do feel) weird talking about it online. I know a lot of bloggers writing books. I think that’s awesome, and I think their books are awesome, and I’m happy for everyone. But I started to feel like if I said anything about it here, people would look at me and how not-one-of-the-big-girls I am and be like, Her? I hesitated to post what seems like the obligatory author line signature photo on twitter and instagram because that kind of picture seems to be owned by the Big Successful Bloggers writing memoir/spiritual/Jesus-y books based on their blogs, not academic books, and I felt like by posting one of those pictures I’d look like I was claiming to be one of them. Presuming. Pretending. Getting something I didn’t deserve.
And also? A little bit of me was ashamed because my book and I don’t fit the mold. I had all these flashbacks to this January day in kindergarten where two little girls were pretending to cry on the playground because they missed the Santa Bears they’d gotten for Christmas, and when I tried to join in they told me I couldn’t because I had a Jingle Bear.
Then and now, I did the opposite of what I was supposed to do. I got it twisted. In my head, somehow I imagined that all you lovely people would give me the Santa Bear treatment. That you’d be as mean to me as I’ve been to myself. That’s what I’ve been doing, telling myself I shouldn’t tell anyone because I don’t really deserve this.
But you know what? *earmuffs, delicate readers* Fuck that. I’m writing a book, and I’m really excited about it. I’m also terrified, because I’m writing a book. But I’ve worked really hard to get here, and I’ll work harder still before it’s over, and I hope when I’m done I’ll have a book that helps people understand the incredible, diverse, strange, beautiful ways women have contributed to American literary culture in the last 450 years.
It’s a really exciting project, but more than that, it feels necessary and important. You might think that women writers have made huge strides breaking into what used to be boys-only clubs of literature and letters, and you’d be right. But there are still people like David Gilmour, who loudly proclaimed that he doesn’t teach women writers because they haven’t written anything that he cares about, and then protested that what he really meant was [exactly what he'd said before, but more elaborately]. And there are writers like Nicholas Sparks, who vehemently opposes being called a writer of the much-derogated chick lit or romance genres, insisting instead that he writes “love tragedies,” a category in which all writers “happen to be men.” (Um, to both counts.) And as long as people like this are around, who pretend that this world is a meritocracy where (unlike white, straight dudes) women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ communities just haven’t really earned their places yet, there will need to be voices like mine and my coauthor’s, reminding people that we do in fact have rich heritages to explore and celebrate.
Dang if that doesn’t get me all fired up. It almost makes me want to instagram this.