In which I talk about what’s happening with my book

“What’s happening with your book?”

I get that a lot. In addition to, “How did you get your hair to do that cool thing?” and “Are you sure that’s how ‘research’ is pronounced?” Or from my students: “Did you grade all the things yet?” Or from my kids: “Do we have any of those Spiderman fruit snacks left?”

I’m good for an equal measure of answers. Dunno. Maybe. Still foggy on that one. Okay?

But the book question plagues me a lot and so I thought I’d lay it out bare. Here’s what’s happening with my book.

You may remember how I wrote a spiritual memoir about my intercultural marriage. And how I got an agent and she turned out to be wonderful. She helped me craft a killer proposal and she submitted it to two full rounds of Christian publishers. My agent has been as kind and thorough as she has been prayerful.

Her positude has made a huge difference because the road to finding a publisher can be quite negative. Waiting and waiting seems to beget more waiting and then the door one’s been knocking on opens quickly and then closes. The rejection feels rare and fresh every time. It’s been a long process of all of that. All said, I’ve been pouring my guts into this book–the writing and the pitching and the proposing for about three years.

After two rounds of rejections from publishers, here are three things I’ve learned:

1. I am not Oprah. I am not Oprah’s best friend Gayle. I am not Joel Osteen or his wife or anyone whom they’d remember in the Osteen will. Ergo, I am not famous and a book deal isn’t going to fall into my lap. My platform, the invisible box upon which I stand to promote my ideas, is pretty microscopic compared to others who score big book deals. This is an obvious hurdle and not one to easily dismiss. Publishers care about platform and it’s more than just being invited to the popular girls’ table in the cafeteria. It’s a marketing base. It’s a branding package. It’s the underpinnings to some really successful empires.

2. I am so close to this book. My kind colleague and his wife taught me that. They recently read the manuscript and gave me some keen feedback which is helping me to shape a new iteration of it. Because this book is so intertwined in the fibers of my being, to be perfectly dramatic, I needed some distance from it. I needed some extra eyeballs to help me reshape it. I’m so grateful for their input and for all who have helped me to keep believing.

3. I still believe in this book. When I hear of others struggling through issues in their family or marriage that fall into the bucket of intercultural relationships, my heart starts beating fast.  This is my bag! I want to say, “I have so dealt with something similar,” followed by a, “And I hope you enjoy Chapter 4, if only for a laugh about what not to do, courtesy yours truly.” I believe there is a captive audience for my book. I believe that there is potential for this book to really bless others and to be a part of some important conversations that have for too long felt too awkward to broach.

So to the question of what’s happening with my book: it’s gearing up for the sprint home. It’s in better shape than it’s ever been. It’s so ready to break through a publisher’s ribbon and to stand in the winner’s circle. But first, let me take a selfie.

selfie

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Hanging out with Lena Dunham

It was so good to hang out with you today, Lena, and I would like to thank Terry Gross for facilitating the conversation and asking most of the questions I would have asked and some I wouldn’t have thought of but was glad she asked you anyway, snorty laughter notwithstanding.

I am still dancing around in the echo of what you said about how oversharing is a “gendered term.” You said men who share about their experiences are deemed brave, but women are relegated to oversharing. I agree. I’ve sat at plenty of lunchtables with men talking perversion and misogyny and using expletives every other word and I got the impression that I was just supposed to hang. Whereas women asking for a tampon at anything above a whisper is considered gauche. I don’t know if this is a battle we will ever win, dear Lena, the war of who gets permission to share true things, but that reminds me of something else illuminating you said. You explained how Hannah, the character you play in “Girls,” is the one who feels charged with saying all the true things out loud, except she forgets that there are social constructs in place for a reason.

I feel this way.
All the time.

I live in reaction to a very private family. I think my temperament is also pretty no bologna and having spent a decade in New England, I’m wicked blunt. But to my family, I’m all, “Okay, people, I’m calling everyone onto the floor who is still wearing a scrunchie from 1994″ and my family is sort of, “Anybody care for some tea?”

So what I’m saying, Lena Dunham, is that I think we get each other. Also, did I say how cute your hair is looking on your Vogue cover? Ah, and by the way, congrazzles on the rave reviews of your book. Michiko Kakutani? Girrrrl.

Full disclosure, though: I couldn’t get into “Girls” and it’s not for the lack of trying on my part or a lack of talent for writing and acting on your part. It was just one of those salt-in-the-wounds reminders of how I sort of forgot to live in New York in my twenties and how I cannot fathom how many sexually transmitted diseases would be involved if life were really like that. That’s where my brain goes. Everybody else is, Look how brave! Look how true! And I am tar-heeled paralyzed in the corner, pondering whether or not all those characters would be filling prescriptions for crabs.

Was that the sound of me oversharing again?

::presses publish because knows Lena Dunham won’t mind::

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RAH RAH REE, Let me see you M-O-V-E!

We are moving around the corner and the process has felt like a long break-up that keeps trying to backpedal and see if there’s anything vestigial from the relationship that can be saved. Like that tinny song: “She said/What about/’Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.” Remember that one? A mutual affection for an Audrey Hepburn film can’t save us. It is time to pack up and move on to the greener pasture.

Moving has been going on for soooo long now, I have given it a new name. Moving, or as I like to call it, Finding all the loose change in your house that was ever minted. Ever. Oh, and also finding: beads, doll shoes, Legos, stickers with dust and dinosaur bits festering on them, and enough hair rubberbands to keep an entire cheerleading squad suspended in mid-air. I am almost persuaded to believe that while I was out, a cheerleading convention took place in my home and they tried to clean up all the hair rubberbands and beads and stickers but they just couldn’t. Spirit sticks are a mess.

spirit stick

***

At a writer’s conference, a woman I’ve never met turns to me, “Oh my gosh girl, you look great. Even for a writer!” I said, “My stars, you do, too! What’s your secret? You must be a writer!”

Laughter.

Then, simultaneously,
She: “No, but I do like your glasses.”
I: “No, but I do love your hair.”

We look at each other’s nametag. We have the same last name.

I: “Are you married to a Korean?”
She: “No. Chinese.”
I: “Did you write a book about it?”
She: “Haven’t written it about surviving that yet…”
I: “Oh. I have a book for you, then.”
Smiles.

***
I went to this poet nerd camp when I was in high school. There was a tandem cheer camp taking place on the same campus. I remember overhearing the cheerleaders, who marched and cheered going to every meal, “Yeah. The writer kids? Like, all I hear they do the whole time is…write?!”

***

I don’t know what day it is lately except today is a day that I am supposed to be moving. Not just moving houses but moving ideologies. I’ve been sulking lately about my book. Have you ever been working so hard on something, just gutting yourself to make it so excellent and then the gal who has more friends and a way cuter haircut does something similar but it’s still a bit pedestrian? Yet everyone around her is RAH-RAH waving their spirit sticks and you just…Yeah. That’s not a good place to set up camp. You’ve got to move on from that jealous onlooking position and find a place where you can be even more excellent and refined and distinct. But it’s tempting, isn’t it? To just begrudge popular girlfriend of her phenomenal blog audience and multiple book deals, even though most of her sentences appear to be bought at a discount on 1-800-CLICHE.COM? It’s altogether seductive to think that such a career blossoms overnight. I know it doesn’t. I also know that my goal with this book is not stardom. It’s to share a message of humor and hope.

Plus, jealousy has a way of painting some pretty ugly lines on our faces. they don’t fade but grow ever deeper with each jealous brushstroke.

bringiton

And let’s be honest. Book deal or not, no author can really afford the Botox.

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