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  • Belle Brett

The Trials and Triumphs of the Week before My Book Launch

Some months ago, a writer friend gave me a little notebook with a Japanese design on the cover to record my preparation for the launch of Gina in the Floating World. I used the diary not only to document my journey, much as I might make notes while traveling, but also to remind myself of my hard work. Most it isn’t all that interesting until the week between the publication date and the evening I officially presented my book to the world. Now that my launch is history, I can look back in both amusement and horror.

MONDAY. SEPT 24. Googled novel, mostly as shortcut to looking something up, to find new citation in number 3 spot! Publishers’ Weekly (PW) review of my novel. Yikes!!! Held breath while reading. “A promising start from a writer to watch.” That’s good, yes? Makes me sound like an ingenue. But they found the novel “arresting,” too, and got the bigger theme of the story. Great start to the day! Emailed my publicist with the good news, and apparently caught her with her finger on the “send” button about to tell me the “exciting” news. (They refer to any mention as “exciting,” but I like their enthusiasm.) I feel a little bad I beat her to it.

Finished reworking, for the umpteenth time, my Pub Day newsletter that probably goes into most people’s spam box. Just doing what experts recommend. Stay in touch with your fans! (Definition of fans being anyone who hit the subscribe button as a gesture of support to you.) Newsletter this time is mainly a plea to do stuff for ME, like take pix of self with my book, have local library order my books, review if you can give me a great rating. Ugh. I’m getting tired of groveling. Then, had to prepare reminder letter for colleagues who offered to do an early review on Pub Day. More groveling. Double ugh. Sent email to close friends/family alerting them of PW review. Talked to friend whose spouse has un-diagnosable disease. Must remind self that that there are things beyond my book.

Decided I needed to tackle the challenge of “the outfit. Went shopping in Harvard Square. Found nice top made from Japanese fabrics. Dark, but thematically correct. Tried on myriad of unflattering dresses at another shop. Had them hold one that fit well and matched book cover but on the busy side. Husband declared Japanese top too dreary. In evening, as I watched a documentary of Jane Fonda and her activism, tried on existing outfits in my closet. Not inspired. Ended up watching part of “Nine to Five,” the title song of which is referenced in the first line of my novel. Must have been a sign.

TUESDAY. SEPT 25. PUBLICATION DAY. Rain. Posted news of PW. Drove to Chicos for one last ditch effort at finding “the outfit.” Except for foray on previous day, hadn’t been clothes shopping in months, since I put my business to bed. Felt like a kid in a candy shop with all the bright colors and coordinating clothes. Have always been sucker for coordinates. Hit pay dirt!! So thrilled that I bought two pairs of jeans as well. (Did quick mental calculation of how many books I’d need to sell to pay for clothes. Remind self not to do that. Discouraging. But a dear friend offered to pay for part of outfit. Yay!!)

Finally feeling excited after months of low-level anxiety and stress. Or was it the shopping therapy? Spent afternoon responding to congratulatory comments, emails, texts, and phone calls, and finishing up launch presentation. Very productive day! However, felt disappointed that flowers from publicist had not yet arrived and thought I’d been forgotten. Lovely husband went out and came back with a big bunch of colorful flowers, and an hour later, saw a long box on porch. A dozen long-stemmed roses from publicist, compete with vase. Two bunches of flowers! Staged special Pub Day photo for Instagram, my new social media obsession. After dinner, celebrated Pub Day with my husband, my Pub Buddy and her husband at local watering hole. Fig-infused vodka with pomegranate juice! Yum!

WEDNESDAY. SEPT 26. Muggy. Took pics of flowers for social media. Decided if I didn’t work out today, it wasn’t going to happen in awhile. But first, went to Staples to get color photo copy of book cover for my launch cake. Should have been a quickie, but machine part needed replacing. Helpful staff person took unusual measures to make my photo. Very grateful. Took said photo to bakery and placed order. Thought I’d check out bookstore where I’m holding launch to see if my book was there on current book stable. Two copies. As I was about to take photo, staff member swoops up one copy for a pre-order, leaving just one, next to a big pile of Tom Hanks’s book. Took pic of the one copy and signed the books awaiting shipment out. Adrenaline pumping during workout. Could have run if it wasn’t for fear of spraining something with 6 days to launch. Came home to realize that hadn’t cleaned house in weeks and niece was coming from Scotland for my launch to dirty house and bed that needed changing.

THURSDAY. SEPT 27. Sunny. Was going to go food shopping, but plumber came over to hook up a washer-drier, so I applied my creative procrastination principle and prepped my giveaways for launch. Cringed every time I used stamp I’d made with the word “Giveways!” misspelled. My fault. Aargh, and me a writer. Sounds like a double entendre. No time to get new stamp and, besides, was expensive! Unable to apply Japanese artfulness to wrapping of gifts but hope attempt will be appreciated. All this happening while listening to hearings re Judge Kavenaugh. Unsettling. Book launch feels very self-indulgent in light of world events. Feeling bad about not cleaning. Did five-minute wet wipe of dust on bathroom floor. Practiced book launch presentation. Better get rid of togue twisters! Filled out application for a book contest, but feeling ambivalent.

FRIDAY. SEPT 28. Rain. Yikes! Where did this day go? I seem to remember food shopping in the rain. Distressed to find that those big homegrown tomatoes have soared in price. Then, once home, triggered by judicial hearings to remember my own #MeToo moments, I wrote blog entry that was rehash from interview question I’d answered recently about sexual politics. Had to hunt for appropriate illustration. Came up with Utamaro’s “The Hussy,” which seemed right. Updated and messed around with my website. And got all tangled up on Instagram and stuck on an endless loop of Leo de Caprio in a scene from “Titanic.” Still haven’t figure out Instagram “stories.” Annoyed that postcards I ordered for event in CT that I needed to get to a friend didn’t arrive until 4:30. Talked to friend to make alternative arrangements.

SATURDAY. SEPT 29. Drove to another part of town to deliver postcards. Took much needed walk with a friend. Cleaned up study/guestroom for niece. So much paper!! Bookstore still out of my books! Double Aargh! Ironed launch jacket.

SUNDAY. SEPT. 30. John and I picked up niece from airport. She was waiting for us, having sped through immigration and customs in record time. Brought us bottle of single malt Scotch from Duty Free. Very useful gift. Practiced presentation. Deleted tongue-twisters. Listened to podcast of interview with me made last month. Better than I remembered it having gone, but need to remind self to try not to say “um” so much. Apologies for not being able to come to launch from several valued invitees. Celebrated niece arrival with shot of new Scotch.

MONDAY. OCT 1. Bad dream last night about not being prepared. Nevertheless, won coveted “Rabbit, Rabbit” contest with John, having feigned sleep at midnight. Rule forbid waking someone to say, “Rabbit, Rabbit,” as month changes over. Ha!! Made list of things still needed to do. Practiced presentation and got feedback from writer niece. Bought the all-important signing pens at local arts and crafts store! Tried out at least a dozen. Found desired turquoise color to match outfit and book cover. Checked invitation acceptances. More than was expecting. Wow…Feeling impatient now.

TUESDAY. OCT 2. LAUNCH DAY! Rain. Slept better than expected. Needed to get rid of nervous energy by going to gym and hammering away at treadmill. Stopped by bookstore. Thrilling to see my book propped up on first table with little yellow sticker announcing reading. That’s me! Husband picked up cake. Still raining steadily. No one will show up… Went through presentation once more. Packed items on my list to take with me to bookstore. With niece, chose suitable piece of pretty but non-distracting jewelry. (Was a piece she’d given me, as it happens.) Even managed to eat a little dinner. Swigged down shot of single malt Scotch. Showered. Changed into new outfit. A good hair day! A harbinger? Don heavy raincoat with hood to protect hair, get into car with husband and niece, and head for bookstore. No going back now!

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