Today my second novel, True Biz, comes out in paperback. Unless you are Big Famous™, paperback launches are kind of strange non-events in these—post-COVID? post-BookTok?—days, so there is not much for me to do. Very different from the first go-around of this book’s life, when Reese frickin’ Witherspoon was leading the charge and there were things to write and videos to make.
Still, I’ve been excited about this day for a while. Mainly, I’m looking forward to this book becoming more accessible—28 bucks is a lot of money, and I hope that a life in paperback will get this book in the hands of deaf/disabled readers and people who might not have reliable access to a library.
Still, I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. Maybe, I thought, an “unboxing” video would be fun; read: elderly millennial, waning technological relevancy. But if you want to know the truth, I haven’t actually seen the paperback in real life. (Thanks…Louis DeJoy?) Maybe I’ll go to a bookstore later to wave hello. If you see it in the wild, send me me a pic?
As a general rule, I hate metaphors that compare one’s books to one’s children, or refer to writing as “giving birth” to a novel. Even before becoming a mom I disliked them, but now, having written actual books and given actual birth, I can officially report that writing a book is definitely not like being in labor. Writing can be really hard, tortuous even. But labor is physically hard. And while novel writing is about uncovering and refining a narrative, honing it until you have control over all the moving parts, labor, and what comes after in parenting, is mostly about the loss of control—of one’s own body, and of what kind of parent you dreamed you might be.
I’m lucky that parenthood, and my kids, have surpassed my wildest dreams in these past few years. And my kids are little, so they still need me a lot. But also, while a parent might throw themselves into guiding/teaching/encouraging/disciplining a child in a specific direction, ultimately parenthood is an exercise in letting go.
Rather than a birthday, a better metaphor for book publication is more like dropping your kid off at college. You buy them sheets and laundry detergent, shampoo and Easy Mac. You’ve given them everything you could, for years. And now they’ve got to head out there without you. You hope you’ve done enough. You wave goodbye and cry in the car on the way home.
So, bon voyage, True Biz. Don’t forget to call home. Don’t drink too much, but if you do, take an Uber back!
What’s an empty nester to do? For me, it’s time to crack open a new notebook and create something new—fresh characters and a world that still needs a guiding hand. Those first few months with a manuscript, where it’s messy and dark and absolutely thrilling, when you feel like you don’t quite know what you’re doing or how you will get to the end, but you keep going anyway…well, that does feel a bit like parenthood, too.
Sara Nović is the author of the novels True Biz and Girl at War (Random House), both of which won ALA Alex Awards. She has an MFA in fiction and literary translation from Columbia University and is a college instructor of creative writing and Deaf studies. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.
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Lovely essay. I think Proust compared novels to grandchildren gleefully prancing about the room while the novelist watches them weakly from a rocking chair.