I’ve never been much for trinkets of success. Maybe it’s my rugged PEI upbringing, but I’ve always associated getting excited about little mementos of achievement with somehow resting on my laurels. Whenever I accomplish a significant milestone in my life (example: publishing my first novel), I tend to give myself nothing more than a hearty little nod of approval before moving on to whatever I’ve deemed to be my next big task (example: writing a second novel). I don’t like this aspect of myself, but it’s always the way I’ve been.
So the other day I was rooting around in the closet of my writing office looking for some computer paper when I came upon the poster board that my first book’s publisher, Norwood Publishing, did for my launch in the fall of 2007. Talk about an in-your-face icon of achievement. The thing is massively ostentatious: a four-feet-by-three-feet high-res print of my novel’s cover that had been sitting in the back of that closet, still sealed in the cardboard in which it had been shipped to me, for more than a year. I should mention that my office closet is a mess, a sloppily organized pit of old anthologies I’ve appeared in, boxes of books and manuscripts, and bags of letters from friends, back when people actually wrote letters; so it’s no surprise that I had forgotten all about the poster board. I should also mention (as I have on my website) that unfortunately, Norwood Publishing shut down its operations about a year after my book came out. The publisher, Robert Humble, graciously gave me the poster board when I bought a chunk of the remaining inventory from him.
It was really never my intention to take the poster board out and display it in my office. It just seemed too boastful, and if there’s one emotion in myself that’s always made me feel uncomfortable, it’s pride. Don’t get me wrong: I was/am proud of whatever modest successes the book had during its run before Norwood went under. But when it was over, I was ready to move on to my next big project with my trademark austerity and diligence.
Only, something has changed. While I was home over Christmas, I travelled to attend a house party in a Maritime city where I had done a couple of readings from the novel back when it first came out. While there, I ran into a number of people who had read Off Book, enjoyed it a great deal and were genuinely interested in asking what else I’m working on. I was blown away. Like so many other authors who go with a small press their first time around, I just assumed my book had slipped beneath the waves without much notice once its initial run was over. I was so touched that people had read it, enjoyed it, and were kind of enough to say as much when they saw me. It reminded me that the book is still out there, still alive in some small way, still worthy of, well, a little bit of pride.
So I’m proud to announce that I’ve propped up the board in my writing room (still need to figure out how the hell I’m going to hang it) as a token of that accomplishment. I still think it’s way too big and loud and boastful, but I’m willing to live with it. It’s certainly a lot cooler that most of the stuff on my office walls, which includes a framed letter from 2005 informing me that I no longer owe any money on my student loans. Ahh, accomplishments …