I finished proofreading my first-pass pages for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart today, and – embarrassingly or not! – the truth is, I cried at the end.
I love this book. And seeing it laid out in its to-be-published form (in the same typeface as Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, according to my lovely editor at Bloomsbury!) made me feel really emotional…especially as a big date is coming up for me.
My birthday is arriving later this week. It’s not a major, decade-birthday milestone – that’ll come next year! But birthdays always have a way of bringing back the last year in review.
I remember when I was about to turn thirty, almost ten years ago, I felt like such a failure. I’d just been diagnosed with M.E./CFS and had had to give up my day job…but since my first agent and I had just amicably parted ways, there was no sign of the writing career I’d always dreamed of to replace it. So I was out of work, unagented, just-diagnosed with a lifelong chronic illness, and even though I’d been desperate to have kids – I wanted so badly to be a mom! – that didn’t look like it was ever going to happen, either.
I felt rotten.
Then Patrick and I went to WisCon, my favorite f/sf con, and my 30th birthday happened on the same day as WisCon’s famous dessert salon (where everyone dresses up in fabulous clothes and eats desserts with their friends – perfect!). I sat at a table full of wonderful friends from around the world, surrounded by even more friends at the neighboring tables, talking about books and writing and life with people I loved and believed in, who somehow, miraculously, believed in me too – and partway through, I was handed a birthday card signed by all my friends. Then the whole WisCon dessert salon sang me happy birthday as I sat there with my beloved husband and wonderful friends, and I felt so loved and supported and shockingly happy despite everything.
Just over a year later I had my first baby after all – AND I sold my first three books before that baby was born. Life can shift so quickly.
Now here’s something I haven’t talked about publicly before, but it’s also true: I went for multiple years in my mid-thirties being absolutely terrified that I would never sell another book after that first trilogy. I really believed that those might be the only books I ever published under my own name. I wrote nine work-for-hire books under a pen name for a packager, I wrote my own new books in whatever time I could scavenge on the side, and I took deep, steadying breaths around my birthdays, as yet another year came and went without another book-sale of my own.
But then this past year… Well.
In this past year, since I turned 38, I sold three more books and I saw my first adult novel published. Yesterday, I got to read a beautiful review of Masks and Shadows in Book Reporter that said, among other things, “MASKS AND SHADOWS by Stephanie Burgis is one of the best historical fantasies to emerge so far this year.”
This morning, I woke up to a really lovely tweet from one reader who’d loved M&S, and this weekend I got an email from another reader who’d found an escape in M&S during a really difficult time.
This morning I hit “send” on my proofreading corrections to The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. Then I clicked “refresh” on my inbox just in case the cover for Congress of Secrets had arrived yet. (It hadn’t! And it probably won’t for another few weeks. I’m just impatient, because I loved the cover for M&S so much, I can’t wait to see what they do for CoS!)
This weekend, I’ll be celebrating my birthday with Patrick and our kids, who have PLANS for the day.
Life can change so quickly, in ways I couldn’t have even imagined.
I’m feeling really, really lucky right now. And I can’t wait to see what the next year holds.