Dear MTV: Welcome To My Super Sweet Book Launch Party!
Since I’ve sold my book, I’ve had to dispel many of my friends’ and family’s myths about the publishing business, because there seems to be some delusions that novel writing is a speedway to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (oh, don’t we wish).
First, the success of J.K. Rowling is not a reasonably attainable goal, despite the fact that many people still wish me luck by saying, “Here’s hoping you’re the next Harry Potter!” I appreciate the sentiment, truly I know you mean well, but it’s kinda like telling a struggling actor that you hope he becomes the next Brad Pitt when really he’s just hoping to make the chorus of the next off-Broadway musical.
Second, I will not (regrettably) be going on a nationwide multi-city tour equipped with my own tour bus and groupies. I’ll be lucky to have book signing at my local Borders (if it’s not bought out by then). Publishers justifiably tend to put the big tour dollars behind established best-selling authors. I’m a debut YA novelist. I’ve got a ways to go before I hit that echelon. And part of the publishing process is learning the art of patience. I can wait (and secretly laugh at the finale of October Road. when a 28-year old literary novelist is asked to go on a World Tour with U2 to read excerpts of his book on stage—and the author DECLINES).
Third, book launch parties are thrown by authors. Yup, that advance we get usually goes toward paying our bills, paying for a publicist, or paying for our own congratulatory party. So, no, my publisher (again, regrettably) will not be renting out the Philadelphia Convention Center to ring in the debut of Amor and Summer Secrets with thousands of screaming Beatlemania-esque fans.
Instead, I will be paying to host my friends, family, business contacts, and any local reporters (all are welcome) at a local restaurant. Why? Because this is the greatest accomplishment of my entire life and I have been dancing in my house since the minute it sold. It is about time I celebrate this achievement with someone other than my cat and my husband.
I know how hard this business is and I know how many writers out there would do just about anything to get their book sold. Well, maybe they wouldn’t do this…
But, whatever, this is a big moment and I deserve a party. So get ready for some mojitos!
POP-CULTURE RANT: Dexter I’m too cheap to pay for Showtime, so I’m watching this series for the first time on CBS. Now, my husband has made fun of me for years for watching the twisted crimes presented on Law & Order SVU. This is especially true when he goes to a bachelor party for the weekend and I think it’s a good idea to sit in my city home and watch episodes of a serial rapist crawling through bedroom windows (then I can’t fall asleep, wonder why?). Anyway, Dexter makes SVU look like Disney programming. We’re talking sick here, people. I’ve never seen a show/movie about a sociopath told from the sociopath’s point of view. And the fact that there is a writer out there who can so accurately depict this character’s state of mind, kinda freaks me out little. But, I suppose, that’s whole point.
Seriously, what did writers do before the Google Guys were born? I can’t imagine how long it would take to write a book if I had to go to the library and look at microfiche every time I wanted to know when the U.S. invaded Italy in WWII (September 1943). Or if I wanted to know when Woodstock took place (August 1969—the original, not the crappy commercialized one that caught fire in ’99). Or if I wanted to learn how to say “good morning” in Italian (“buongiorno”).
And don’t even get me started on Wikipedia. Yeah, I know it’s not technically accurate. It’s just a bunch of “facts” that can be altered by any schmoe with an Internet connection (as proven by Stephen Colbert and the Great African Elephant Incident of 2006).
But regardless, I still love how Wiki pops up on the first page when I do a Google search for just about anything. Seriously, I might have to give these wondrous cyber inventions top billing on my next Acknowledgments page, because that little Google toolbar saves me hours of time. Time I could be spending looking at funny cat photos on http://icanhascheezburger.com.
I keep threatening my cat that if she continues to drink out of the toilet, I will photograph it and post it on this page. In the meantime, I could just post this:
Isn’t she classy?
Her name’s Lupi, though in some circles she’s known only as “The Hisser.” I seem to be the only person she likes. My poor mother has bribed her with everything from lunchmeat to sirloin, and Lupi still hisses (but she eats the food, she’s not stupid).
My husband and I even adopted her together, saved her from a shelter in Harlem, yet everyday she hisses at him as if she has no idea what he’s still doing here.
She doesn’t hiss at me though; she follows me around like a little shadow. What can I say, she’s a good judge of character. ;-)
POP-CULTURE RANT: American Idol I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that isn’t very popular right now—I am not a fan of David Archuleta. There, I’ve admitted it. Something about the kid reminds me of Zoolander and once I noticed it, I couldn’t get it out of my head (like that episode of “How I Met Your Mother” with the ‘glass shattering revelations’). Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good singer, but in a Michael Bolton kinda way. And unlike that scene from Office Space, I do not celebrate Michael Bolton’s “entire catalogue.” I am, however, rooting for David Cook, because of his talent, or Michael Johns, ‘cause he’s pretty and I can say that because my husband is totally crushing on that Carly Simon-looking girl, Brooke White. What can I say, we’re a house divided in Idol loyalties :-)
So if you’ve landed on my blog, at some point you’ve probably passed a photo of me. And you may have noticed that I don’t look like the Latina stereotype one pictures when they hear the last name “Rodriguez.”
It’s okay. You can admit it. I get that a lot.
Let me just come out and say that my dad is Puerto Rican (he grew up in Utuado) and my mom is Polish. And before you jump to any conclusions—no, I do not look like my mother. But, yes, my family is “West Side Story, The Dyslexic Version” (I love Officer Kumpke).
Here’s the deal: not all Latinas look like Selma Hyak (though we probably wish we did). And don’t be alarmed… but we don’t all speak Spanish.
I learned Spanish in school just like everybody else (plus I spent a semester in Madrid). Why did I not get the “Spanish language gene” passed down in my DNA? Because it doesn’t exist.
Though my dad is fluent, my mom is not. So unless he was speaking to my grandparents (who eventually learned English), he wasn’t using his native tongue in our home.
Because I don’t “look” Latina and because I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish, I sort of went into the closet about it. I grew up feeling like I wasn’t a part of my own culture because I didn’t fit the stereotype. And, even worse, I let other people treat me as if I didn’t belong.
Trust me—people aren’t shy about calling you out. I had a guy come up to me at a corporate cocktail party I was attending for my former magazine, take one look at my name badge and say, “Rodriguez? How’d you get that name? What did you marry a Hispanic?”
No, I didn’t. I married a very nice Jewish boy (what can I say? I’m diverse).
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that the Latina stereotype is just that—A STEREOTYPE.
I’m no less Latina because I’ve got freckles and reddish hair. Much of my family in Puerto Rico is paler than I am with just as many freckles. My cousin Ventura, who lives in San Juan and doesn’t speak English, gets called a “gringo” by his own people when he runs the Puerto Rican marathon.
So why do we do this? Why do put Latinos in the closet?
Because it’s not just me.
Look at Cameron Diaz. How many of you know that her father is Cuban? Yup, she’s half-Cuban. This makes her genetically more “Latina” than Jessica Alba, who’s half-Mexican American roots are several generations removed.
It’s as silly as saying Barack Obama isn’t “black enough.” Or that Jennifer Lopez is “getting all ethnic now.” Or that to appeal to the “Latino Vote,” politicians should run ads in Spanish.
So I wrote a book about this. I gave my character, Mariana Ruíz, the same ethnic make up as myself (come on, how many other Polish Puerto Ricans do you know? I had to represent). And I have her struggling to face her cultural identity. She’s got red hair and freckles, she doesn’t speak Spanish, and (gasp!) she’s from a wealthy suburb.
She’s Latina. She’s multi-cultural. And so am I.
POP-CULTURE RANT: General Hospital Since the theme here is coming out of the closet, I figured I’d go all the way. I watch General Hospital. And I love it. Did any of you see their “special effects” for February sweeps? They pulled out the green screen and everything to have the Text Message Killer’s car dangling over a bridge. Okay, it wasn’t exactly Star Wars technology, but I give them an ‘A’ for effort. Though I’m sure many fans were secretly hoping Sam and/or Elizabeth would go down with that car. Come on, you know you were…
Unfortunately, Authors Can Only Control the Writing
I’m a Type A over-achiever. This means I put immense pressure on myself and I worry a lot (thanks mom for passing down those genes). I stress about everything from money to Christmas dinner to dentist appointments. I’m also crazy competitive. In the 10 years that I’ve been in a relationship with my husband, I’ve beaten him in Scrabble—a lot (“Riesling,” 77 points, all-time high). I even catch myself in Zen-inducing yoga classes oddly competing with the Cirque du Soleil contortionist next me even though my muscles clearly are not made out of rubber bands.
So when it comes to dealing with the publishing process, I can stress myself into a bout of TMJ. Because as an author, you can’t control beyond the last word you put on the page.
You can’t control whether the book gets sold. You can’t control the shifts in the market. You can’t control whether it gets reviewed by People. You can’t control how it’s perceived in the marketplace. And you can’t control whether it gets picked up by the Goddess of Oprah. You can only control the writing.
It’s a lesson I learn everyday. It’s how I keep my Type A tendencies in check. I write. I always have something new in the works, because writing is what I love to do.
It also helps that I have an agent who gets me and an editor who loves my work. Plus, I have a background in public relations, which means I get to spend the months between now and September (the book launch) obsessively focusing on ways to sell my book. Sure, I can’t control how many teens go out and buy it. But I can control how many schools I speak at, how many book stores I contact, and how many press releases I promote. Plus, I have a husband with a background in marketing who works for an interactive advertising agency. That doesn’t hurt.
So I know what needs to be done and I’ve never been one to sit back and wait for things to happen. If I were, I wouldn’t have gotten this far; I wouldn’t be an author.
“I majored in marketing, baby, and so did my husband. We came to play.” –Regina King in Jerry Maguire
POP-CULTURE RANT: Elections I have an odd obsession with CNN’s election coverage. I love that board they draw on like they’re John Madden. But what I love even more is that it all comes down to Pennsylvania, baby! Since I have been of voting age, the primaries have all been decided by the time they got to my home state. Why does PA vote three months after Iowa? I have no idea (Rendell should get on that). But now all those “expert pundits,” who were ready to hand Obama the victory after a single state’s election, have to wait until the keystone state weighs in. Seven weeks of nonstop stumping in Philadelphia! I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea Clinton shows up at my niece’s Communion to stir up votes (hint, hint).
The Truth: What does a soon-to-be published writer do all day?
Prior to becoming a novelist, I rarely fielded questions about my career. Actually, I can safely say, I never fielded questions about my career. But once I told family and friends that I was writing a novel, the inquiries flooded in. “How’s the novel going?” “When’s it gonna be published?” “Can I buy it in stores?”
After Amor and Summer Secrets sold (to Kensington for publication in September 2008), and I began working at home as a full-time writer, the questions changed. Suddenly I began hearing, “Wow, you have the life. What do you do all day? How do you fill the time?”
Trust me I’m busy. So I’ve decided to take the opportunity of my first blog entry to answer this question.
This is the honest unedited life of a recently turned 30 young adult author:
I wake up at 9am. I don’t have kids and I’m not a morning person, so sue me. I make breakfast (that means a Special K bar), I flick on something from DVR (usually the Daily Show from the prior night) and start up my laptop. God bless Gateway, because my laptop is on approximately 14 hours every day.
Then I begin navigating my online ritual. At any given moment, someone can contact me digitally in 11 different ways:
• I have two Instant Message accounts.
• I have two personal e-mail accounts.
• I have an old corporate e-mail account that I use for my ongoing consulting work.
• I contribute to three different online writers’ discussion boards.
• I check my MySpace account, accept/reject new friends, answer any MySpace messages and comments, and send a couple of friend requests.
• I regularly receive messages from BU alumni asking for publishing advice through our University’s advisory network.
• Then, of course, there’s the good old-fashioned cell phone/text messaging machine that’s glued to my side.
After I’ve completed a full cycle through my online routine, I do the normal things: showering, teeth brushing, bed making, etc. And then I turn my attention to my writing.
Right now, I’m conducting historical research for a work-in-progress (WIP). Last week, I was reviewing copy edits for Amor and Summer Secrets. Next week, I’ll be sketching out the plot of my WIP. By the end of March, I’ll be meeting face-to-face with a contact who can elaborate on my historical data. When I get to working on the rough draft, I write no less than 3,000 words per day. When I’m editing later drafts, I go through at least 20 pages per day.
I usually do all this work from my home though sometimes I go to Philly Java Company (as seen in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) not far from the gym I frequent at least three times per week. I make dinner. I watch CNN’s election coverage. I work on my Spanish using the latest in computer learning tools (“los ninos estaban corriendo”). I read four different writing related blogs. I scan philly.com. I feed my cat; her name is Lupi.
Once my husband comes home (he too puts in far more than a 40-hour week), we watch primetime TV over our side-by-side laptops. I often spend my evenings completing projects for my consulting business, or planning my book launch party for September, or fleshing out marketing ideas for my books. Then I go through my cyber routine all over again.
I usually don’t turn my computer off before 11pm.
That’s what I do all day. I’m a writer. And I love it.
POP-CULTURE RANT: Lost Since when do I need an advanced degree in Quantum Physics to watch primetime TV? If you’ve been following Lost, you’d know that this season is getting into some pretty heavy topics. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But I’m not sure I’m prepared to add academic prerequisite reading material to watch a TV drama. On a separate note, SNL has been awesome. I loved Tina Fey last week and if you want to get a taste of the show’s post-writer strike flavor, check out this clip. It’s the best thing about There Will Be Blood.
Diana Rodriguez Wallach’s debut young adult novel, Amor and Summer Secrets, is the first in a three-book series published by Kensington Publishing in 2008 and 2009. In addition to writing, Diana is a pop-culture junkie: everything from primetime to soaps, ew.com to The Soup, The Hangover to Slumdog, and Gossip Girl to Jane Austen. She’s loves it all and loves to rant. Enjoy!