When I was in second grade Mrs. Guidice let us choose a special treat on our birthdays: she could read an extra chapter of whatever book she was currently reading aloud to us a chapter a day, or she could allow us to play Heads Up Seven Up.
Heads Up Seven Up is a game where seven students are chosen to go to the front of the room while the other students put their heads down and hold their thumbs up. The kids at the front then tiptoe around the classroom, choosing one student whose thumb to push down. When all seven are back at the front, everyone raises his/her head and those lucky thumbs downed students try to guess who pressed their thumbs down. Guess correctly and you got to switch spots; guess incorrectly...um, I truly don't remember.
|AH! Was that why Mrs. G was so into that game?|
|Try to resist this...if you can, we are obviously not meant to be friends.|
I earned the ire of the entire class.
I couldn't have given a shit less.
You see, Heads Up Seven Up was a game that was nerve-wracking and disappointing. It was mainly a game of giggles for the more popular kids in the class, and it was won by those who had observation skills and social acumen. Considering I was a quiet, bespectacled nerd early on, I had zero desire to play a game that was clearly designed to cater to a certain segment of the class I wasn't part of.
Plus, it was Willow! It was magic and romance, gorgeous scenery that looked nothing like the slightly run-down little city where I went to school at the time, and heroes who were changing the world with their brains and their strength. Even at seven my world was a little too small. I wanted to see more, do more, experience more and books were the key.
Book are the key.
|Right on, Mr. King. Right on.|
I write. And I love it. Every keystroke, every sleepless night plotting or detailing, every gorgeous story I release, peppered with typos I'm too excited to catch, wordy because I'm a wordy son of a bitch and that's how I write, too long, not sweet enough, not easy enough, not serious enough, too real, too much--I write the way I read; to bring alive some imperfect thing not quite mine that lives inside me, and then to share it.
To share it.
There's the snag.
I guess in my heart I'm still the nerd who wants the teacher to read instead of playing a game. I'm the kid who's sitting out pep rallies to kick my feet up in the cafeteria and dive into the next chapter of my English novel. I'm the teenager who checks the caller id and ignores her boyfriend's call because I'm listening to my CDs and reading the best freaking book ever, and I just don't feel like going out tonight.
|My highschool boyfriend was alright, but Valley of the Horses was so damn HOT! Sorry, but Jondalar was all my teenage hormones could handle on a Friday night...|
|I mean, she's cooking dessert. So...just the negligent owner of a whole litter of bad wandering puppies? Or a female dog with mad kitchen skills? Mystery.|
I read a ton and when something really, really makes my heart pound, makes me sweaty and so full of whatever the hell makes you feel kind of like puking and crying and maybe like you're in a dream you can't wake up from, I tell my best friend. Maybe. When I'm ready. And then she reads it and we talk about it in low, reverent voices, unable to put our fingers what the hell that book did to us.
How the hell can words do that? And how the hell can I do that with my words?
May I one day be lucky enough to figure out how to do that with my words.
|C'mon fucking Angela's Ashes. Why do you have to be so gorgeous and so sad and so wonderful and so raw?|
But writing and reading in this day and age is shifting. That's not exactly a complaint...more an unseen twist in a story I thought I knew the ending to. I'm not some curmudgeon shaking her fist at the kids these days...I'm not.
I don't think.
|Not me. Can't be. I love smiling. Smiling is my favorite ;)!|
But I'm also not quite able to join the frolic of euphoric book fandom. Not that I haven't tried. Of course I have. And I will keep trying, in my own way, as much as I can. I have an agent, I've worked with publishers--whether or not they say so overtly, they want you to tweet and share your book news and use EXCLAMATION POINTS (and who the hell am I to ever turn my nose up at an exclamation point!?!)...but it feels...
|This looks fun. It really does. But it makes me feel so tiiiired. Because I'm old. And introverted.|
As a writer, releasing a book is like being in second grade on my b-day.
And I want to just sit back and have a story shared in the quiet, sun-speckled room, my chin in my hand, my eyes glazed over so I see past the blackboard, past the podium where my teacher reads and into somewhere far away. Somewhere that makes the hair stand up on my arms if I'm lucky.
But it's not like that. It's loud. It's social and exciting and has this party feel, which is awesome. Who would be crazy enough to complain about people loving books so much they shout it from the social networking rooftops?
The thing is--damnit--I'm still the nerd.
|I getcha, Charlie. I do.|
So to me the day I release is like the biggest, craziest game of Heads Up Seven Up.
Or a pep rally.
Or maybe the game, then the rally.
And, remember, I'm still the nerd. Chances are, even on my birthday, my thumb will hardly be in the game and the pep rally will be all about a bunch of sports I'm not playing. I don't begrudge the players all that excitement.
I just don't quite get it. I'm an introvert at heart, and books were always the one kind of pure fun and craziness that was so quiet and private before, so it was the one realm that made perfect sense for an experience lover who'd rather sit in bed on Friday night than go to an insane party. Now that books are so much more social, I feel a little lost.
I've been curled up for months reading and writing, and it makes my introverted heart soar. It's nerd paradise. But I'm releasing a book again, and of course I'm going to talk about it and be genuinely happy when other people reach out and share and shout and are genuinely wonderful, because it's fucking nice.
|So this guy wrote a book and this is how he celebrated it. But he's a man who knows all about fashion and sociability and networking and parties...I, on the other hand, when asked by my mother what the theme for my kid's b-day was, answered, "Um. Happy birthday?"|
Because, outside the noise and fun and chatter, what books are really about--truly--are those moments when you connect to this new world, to this cast of characters, to this emotive network that makes you feel tremendous and small and malleable and forever in time, and that moment has to be private.
It has to be, immediately, you and those words only.
Sure, you can blog and tweet and share after, but you can only live that moment one-on-one, you and the book.
|Now there's my kind of party!|
So there you go. I've come to the end of my own puzzle and realized that I'm still right where I need to be. Things have changed, but they haven't. Book-lovers are all lost in that internal place we can all acknowledge but never mention while we're there, but we can still be there together. Just be with and in and of the story.
And I guess, really, that's the only place anyone who loves books ever wants to be at after all.