Anatomy of a Setback

So, I mentioned the terrific time I had at ILA16 this past weekend. But I didn’t tell you about a little setback I experienced.

The whole reason I was attending the conference was because Abrams invited me to sign advanced reader copies (aka ARCs) of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. I was psyched to do this, because it was a great opportunity to build some buzz and connect with educators; plus, the conference was in Boston, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Providence. After I got the invite from Abrams, I contacted the team at Candlewick Press and asked them if they wanted me to do a signing for The Infamous Ratsos as well; they did, though by that time it was too late to get my Ratsos signing on the official ILA schedule. Of course, that didn’t matter to me — I was thrilled to have the chance to be a part of the ILA scene, and to spread the word about the book. Plus, I knew I was already doing the big official signing at Abrams; I could promote my afternoon Ratsos signing to anyone who got a signed ARC of The Bland Sisters that morning.

And then, Saturday afternoon, the day before I was due to attend the conference, I got a call from Abrams with bad news: they’d shipped three boxes of books to ILA, and one had not turned up. What was in that wayward box? You guessed it. Among other important materials, The Bland Sisters ARCs had gone MIA. Of course, this was no one’s fault (except, possibly, the shipping company), and I’ve been in publishing (and on the publishers’ side of the fence) long enough to know that these things happen, which is what I told the very apologetic Abrams contact who delivered the news.

But after I got off the phone, I thought about the situation some more. And the more I thought about it, the more bummed I felt — my inner Eeyore took over, and started telling me, “Of course this happened to you. Your career is doomed.” And then I really started to worry — that a big opportunity to build buzz had been lost, that the success of the series launch had been compromised, that I was going to seem like a total lame-o at the conference, and that my Ratsos signing was going to be a bust. “Why even bother?” my inner Eeyore wondered. (This is his favorite refrain.)

It was not my finest moment, but I have been operating at a disadvantage lately, due to a cocktail of unpredictable perimenopausal hormones and the fact that we’ve been nighttime training our toddler, which means I’ve been waking up at 2am each night to take him to the potty. So I have been tired and cranky, and when tired and cranky have a party, Eeyore is bound to show up. The best way for me to shut it down, and really the only way, is to take a nap. I’m just glad I was in close proximity to my bed at the time, and far away from any sharp implements or heavy machinery.

The nap worked. When I woke up, I was still a little bummed, but I felt ready to turn things around. On the bright side, my cancelled 10am signing meant that I didn’t have to take the 7am train to Boston (the only one that Sunday that would have gotten me to the convention center on time), giving me an extra hour or so to sleep in — so when my rescheduled train encountered a forty minute delay, I had the wherewithal to roll with it. The train made up some time in transit, so I wasn’t completely rushed, and all my events went smoothly. Better than smoothly, in fact. I had a great Abrams-sponsored lunch with some esteemed educators, where I passed around the one Bland ARC I did have. Then, at my Ratsos signing, we went through eighty books in under an hour! (And Abrams will be sending all interested parties an ARC at a later date; I like to think that sending the book separately will make it seem more special.)

As writers (and as creative people in general), we spend so much of our time making our work the best it can be, so we can give it the best chance for success in the world. But even the best chance of success isn’t foolproof. Talent and effort and ingenuity are key, as ever. But as I’ve learned the hard way (more than once), it’s just as crucial to have patience and resilience. And to know when it’s time to take a nap.

3 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Setback

  1. Excellent advice. When I need grace (which is often), I’m coming to you to see if you can loan me some. So glad that all’s well that ends well! (And that box will turn up – and there’ll be some lucky recipients of ARCs when it does!)

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