Any writer who has had a book on submission knows the stomach-twisting anxiety. Why hasn’t anyone called? Where is my six-figure deal and my auction? Ha! More likely, you will be greeted with crickets. Weeks, maybe months, of crickets.
I’m bracing myself.
I’m new at this, as my first novel just went out on submission. But thanks to my creative, supportive family, I’m getting through it just fine. And I’m absolutely not obsessing over my book. Nope. I hardly think about it.
The night before my novel manuscript went out, I was feeling so proud, so accomplished. I had written a novel. I had revised and revised. I had signed with an agent I respect and trust. Everything was in place.
I raised a glass of wine with my husband. I was on my way!
The next morning, I was a mess. I checked my email obsessively. I may have poked around on Twitter a bit to see what the editors I had submitted to were doing that day. (FYI, that is a really stupid idea. Don’t do that. It will just make you crazy.)
This is where my wonderful, dedicated family stepped in and staged an intervention.
As I was busy refreshing my email, they secretly plotted a way to keep my mind off of my book. I imagine the strategy session went something like this:
Husband: “Hey, let’s all try to take Mom’s mind off of her book being on submission. What can each of you do this week to help distract her?”
Adult Kid #1: “I’ll get caught in a rockslide in the middle of nowhere in Alaska and total my car. Ooh, and I’ll do it alone. In the freezing cold. Where there’s no cell signal and lots of wild animals. Then I’ll hitch hike to civilization with the first random guy who stops to help.”
Husband: “Very creative. The hitch hiking is a nice touch.”
Adult Kid #2: My friends and I will go camping during a Nor’easter! Mom will be so worried that I’ll get eaten by woodland creatures or freeze to death, she’ll forget all about her book.”
Husband: “Fantastic idea.”
Teen kid #3: “I’ll get a concussion with minor amnesia the day before we are supposed to go on a college touring road trip to NYC. Mom will love that!”
Husband: “Perfect! And I’ll give her a pile of tax papers to fill out. She loves doing taxes. If we all work together, she won’t even remember her book is on submission. Great team work!”
If only I had known about the sacrifices my family intended to make on my behalf, I would have stopped them. But, alas, I was too busy looking editors up on Twitter.
Nothing seemed suspicious that first morning. My 17-year-old and I had planned a trip to New York to visit colleges that week. We had everything mapped out. It was going to be great. Quality one-on-one time. New York City, a hotel, great food, beautiful schools to tour.
I checked my email. Still no book deal.
But my daughter got a concussion right before our trip. I shifted into mom mode. Should we cancel the trip? Could she manage the tours? It was just a minor concussion. We could take it easy. No Broadway shows, early nights. Is that bad parenting?
Then I looked at the news. A Nor’easter was barreling toward Boston. Amtrak cancelled our train a day ahead of the storm. I scrambled to find us a bus out of Boston a night early. We got two of the last seats on any plane, train, or bus out of Boston that night and arrived in New York a day ahead of the storm.
The concussion distracted me for an entire day, then another day of revising travel plans pulled me away from obsessing over the book.
My family is so good at this.
When we got to New York, we had dinner with my middle daughter who lives in the city. I was hoping to hang out with her while we were in town, but she informed me she and a group of friends had decided to go camping. Because that’s an awesome thing to do during a Nor’easter.
The next night I woke up at 2 am wondering, is she warm enough? What if they get lost in the snow? What if another storm comes in? Are there wild animals?
Yes, I was awake in the middle of the night, but I was NOT lying there thinking about my book. Their plan seemed to be working.
Another day passed as we cautiously toured colleges, monitored the concussion, and watched the weather.
I snuck a peek at my email.
Right on cue, I got a call from my oldest daughter, who lives in rural Alaska where she works for an environmental nonprofit. As she was driving alone on a remote stretch of highway, some rocks tumbled onto the road. They did not crush her car, but they fell in front of her and she couldn’t stop in time. She plowed into the rocks, which mangled her car.
She was not injured, but she was stranded on a rural Alaskan road, where, obviously, it was really cold.
I felt a bit nauseous as she told me the story.
I was definitely not thinking about book deals.
How cold was it? Were there wolves? Moose? Wildlings? (She was definitely north of the wall.)
My girl had to hitch hike back to civilization with a random man who drove by.
Book deal? Did I even write a book?
She eventually got towed to Anchorage, which is four and half hours from her house.
She isn’t old enough to rent a car, so she was stuck far from her house where her dog was home alone. I realized at this point that even the car rental agency was in on my family’s plan. Hertz was trying to distract me from, wait, … what was I anxious about? Right, a book.
I peeked at my email. No news.
The next day my husband went out of town and left me a stack of tax papers to work on. My stress level spiked. I hate details. I hate taxes. And I’m pretty terrible at both. (I should point out that he does most of our taxes. I’m only responsible for dealing with a sliver of business taxes as they relate to my farm and real estate. I shouldn’t be complaining. But, I wasn’t happy about it.)
My husband is an intuitive guy, so he left me my most despised task at the precise moment I was coming down from the stress of the Alaskan rock slide incident, the Nor’easter camping trip, and the concussion.
All of a sudden, a week had passed. I didn’t have any offers on my novel, but I had hardly thought about it, given all the brilliant distractions my family orchestrated.
I really can’t thank them enough.
I survived that first week of being on submission. And, I’m happy to report, my children survived as well. (Although my daughter’s car did not.)
Now, as I head into a new week, I’m getting anxious again, but not about about my book.
You see, I have a fourth child, a 12-year-old boy who has been awfully quiet since my book went out on submission. It’s not like him to stay out of the family fun of torturing—uh, I mean supporting—me. I’m considering encasing him in bubble wrap until my book sells.
I’m more than a little scared of what the coming week holds in store, but whatever it is, I’m confident it will distract me from my compulsion to check email every few minutes.
I know I will get through this because—despite their questionable methods—my family always has my back. And for that, I am sincerely grateful.
Now, please pass the bubble wrap.
(Author’s note: It’s possible I dramatized some of these events a little bit. But not much.)