Launching a kid and a book into this crazy world
|Jen Howard||Sep 12, 2020|
**Warning: Contains self-promotion.**
Hello, friends! Hope you are staying safe. We’re not even halfway through the month yet, but September has been quite a ride so far. Amazingly enough, even in the midst of the fire-ravaged, virus-plagued hellscape of late summer 2020, I have a couple of launches to be happy about, and I am hella grateful. Here goes:
Launch Number One: I sent my firstborn to college. We moved L into her dorm last Saturday, in a truncated (masked-up, time-limited) but still meaningful version of that watershed parent-child transition.
I could fill several newsletters with all the mixed emotions the move stirred up for me: joy, loss, excitement, mourning, anxiety, optimism, a keen sense of things ending and things beginning. I’d be feeling all of those things in a normal year (remind me what a normal year looks like?). This year has amplified all the anxious feelings, but also made me savor happy ones even more. As the print in my kitchen reminds me daily:
Launch Number Two: My first book is a real thing in the world. CLUTTER: AN UNTIDY HISTORY made its official debut Sept. 1.
I was a bundle of nerves in the run-up to publication, but when the day finally arrived, I felt like it was my birthday as much as my book’s. It felt … good, liberating, to see this thing I’ve lugged around in my brain for so long take tangible form, finished (enough) to be set loose in print and other formats and put in the hands/on the devices of readers.
And it is finding readers! That part thrills me the most.
Kirkus had already given Clutter a glowing pre-publication writeup (“a keen assessment of one of society’s secret shames and its little-known consequences”), and highlighted it in their fall preview of notable books. Then The New York Times Book Review featured it in their Aug. 30 “New & Noteworthy” column—the first time a Belt title has made it into the NYTBR, I’m told, but surely not the last.
This week, a Washington Post reviewer declared I’d out-Kondo’d Kondo and written “a stern and wide-ranging manifesto” on decluttering. That surprised me: I wasn’t aware I’d written a manifesto at all, much less a stern one. Readers will have to judge the tone for themselves; I promise I didn’t write the book in anger. But I learned a long time ago that books read their readers as much as vice versa, and I’m honored that the book got serious review attention in the WaPo.
The review attention helps, but my favorite response so far came via the contact form on my website, from a reader I don’t know. They wrote the loveliest note:
Although I am, like you, a child of someone with someone with tendencies toward clutter, I will definitely be recommending this book to everyone I know regardless of their relationship with clutter. Your writing reminded me of Rebecca Solnit at her best--effortlessly tying together personal narrative and overlooked histories, while also recognizing and celebrating previous scholarship in the subject area. One of the best books I have read this year.
That’s the kind of note that makes an author feel the struggle was worth it.
I’ve also been touched by and grateful for all the pre-orders, the Insta and FB and Twitter posts that feature CLUTTER out in the wild (or atop piles of stuff), the Goodreads and Amazons reviews, and the general outpouring of bookish support from friends, colleagues, and people for whom the topic resonates. You all ROCK.
Another change: I’m answering rather than asking questions these days. I’ve been interviewed for some podcasts and print things that should be out soonish, and I will be doing an online event in October with East City Bookshop. Stay tuned for details.
In the meantime, a couple of Clutter links for your perusal:
“Do we have Victorians to thank for consumerism?” (An excerpt from Clutter in LitHub)
“Discomfort can be really useful to a writer; it pushes you to experiment” (My Q&A with book blogger and author Deborah Kalb)
Thanks for reading. Find joy where you can. And don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t spent the last six months madly pandemic-decluttering your house.
I’ll leave you with Lou Reed singing Kurt Weill’s “September Song.” These precious golden days, I’d like to spend them with you….