June 5, 2017
It was so great to see you at my book launch last week, however briefly. Those events are so challenging in a way – the room is full of people you love, and there is barely enough time to say hello to everyone, let alone have a real conversation.
The end of the school year is always distracting, and launching a book at the same time is positively head-spinning. I’m travelling here and there, and doing school events and exams with my kids, and I’m on the brink of a major professional or maternal failure at all times. In July, I’ll disappear up north with my kids and try to get a handle on my next book. But in the meantime, I feel like a madcap rom-com heroine without the love interest. That’s probably even less charming than it sounds.
Book launches have a This Is Your Life quality, too, and (at least for me) they provoke a strong emotional reaction. When I think about the period in which I imagined and wrote Just Like Family, I’m overwhelmed by the tremendous changes in my life in a relatively short time. While writing this novel, I got divorced, moved, quit my job, had a bestseller, sold another two books, started dating again, fell in love, broke up, got interviewed on radio and television, saw a lot of the country I’d never seen before, got really ill and ended up in hospital, got a sports injury that needed months of rehab, lost some good friends, and made spectacular new ones. So I guess that’s why it took me three years to publish it.
You were racing to get to the launch the other night, and I think you missed the speeches. I’m sorry, only because I wanted you to get your shout-out. There was a time when writing was almost impossible because it required a level of concentration that I simply couldn’t muster with everything else going on around me. And during that time, these letters kept steering me back, ever so gently, to my desk and to writing sentences. And after a few months, I found that I was able to write chapters again, and then a book. So I owe you, and the Pen Pal Project, a lot. Which is why, even though they are intermittent, I’d never want to stop writing you letters.
I give a lot of speeches, sometimes in hard situations, and I invariably hold it together. But this time was different. This time, I started crying. I said: “There are many people in this room who walked in when others walked out, and sat patiently beside me while I put the pieces of my life and self back together. If there’s a better definition of friendship, (*weeping begins*) I don’t know what it is. Every one of you is just like family to me, and I thank you for it.” (This last bit may have been drowned out by a sustained period of sobbing. Happy sobbing, but still.)
I was more than a little mortified, but my friends (they are nice friends, as you know first-hand) said it was more than fine. They said it was real. And it was.
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