Whew! So, I’m back from ALA—and first of all, I just have to say that while I’ve loved librarians devotedly for pretty much my whole life, in the wake of ALA, my love for them now far outstrips what it was even a week ago.
About the conference: this was the first time I’ve been to a big industry event, and let me tell you, ALA was BIG. The convention center in New Orleans should have its own zip code.
(In fact, although I started this line of speculation fully intending it to be facetious, the convention center may actually have its own zip code. )
There are a lot of things that made ALA a really excellent place to be, including delicious food and stellar company, but the highlight of the trip is the fact that on Saturday, I had a chance to sign ARCs of THE SPACE BETWEEN, and I have to say, it was one of those completely inexpressible experiences. And naturally, because it is inexpressible, I will try to articulate it . . . now.
Okay, wait. I’m actually going to back up and start by saying this: writing books is weird. I mean, there are a lot of different things that make it weird, but right now what I mean is that writing books is weird because a book takes a long time to write and you work on it every day for months and sometimes years, and you obsess about the book and you dream about it and breathe it, and even after all that, it can still feel like a very hypothetical thing.
Like the Velveteen Rabbit,* a book takes a certain amount of unconditional love and quiet suffering in order to become real. You have to soldier on and have faith that if you just keep going, your ideas will eventually be transformed into something actual. But you never quite know what that first acute moment of realness is going to be.
For instance, the moment The Replacement felt real—really-real, I mean—wasn’t when I sold it or revised it or did my copyedits or any of that. It was when I walked outside to find a package on the steps and when I opened it, discovered that I was holding an ARC in my hands. The book was right there, in my hands. And suddenly, it became undeniable.
So for The Space Between, I sincerely thought that I’d already had my real-book experience, because I’d gotten my ARCs right before I left for ALA (and they are so, so pretty, which certainly contributes to it being a very Real Thing). But my assumption turned out to be distinctly not-true. Not to get too convoluted, but it was still hypothetical realness that I was passing off as genuine in my own head.
Instead, my first really-real moment came last Saturday, when I showed up to sign at the Penguin booth, and was both humbled and ecstatic to find a contingent of bloggers and librarians already lining up to get their copies. Suddenly, it occurred to me that other people were not only aware of The Space Between but watching it expectantly, waiting for it to stand up and say something. Which, I will admit, kind of bowled me over.
I signed ARCs. I talked to people about the story. I tried to act normal and like the whole situation wasn’t just incredibly surreal. I think I mostly succeeded. Mostly. Because I still can’t stop thinking about this: it is entirely possible that there are librarians out in the world reading about Daphne—my Daphne—right now!
Which is very . . . actual.
(And that is the story of how The Space Between stopped being a toy rabbit and became a real book.)
*If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I won’t take up unnecessary space by explaining it in mind-numbing detail here, but please read it. Because it is a much-loved cornerstone of my childhood. And also a Real Book.