June 29, 2011 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Identity as a writer is an odd thing. Does it count if I haven’t actually touched a keyboard (except for tweets and blog entries) in months? What if publications are few and far between, or non-existent? Is there a point at which anyone ever feels comfortable saying ‘I’m a writer’?
(As I’ve pointed out before, I used to write ‘poet’ on my UK landing cards, but that was mainly to annoy immigration officers.)
Next week I get to say ‘I’m a novelist’ without having to qualify that with ‘I’m working on a book’ or ‘I’m looking for an agent’ or ‘there are three unpublished ones in the drawer’ or anything else. You can argue that I was a novelist the moment I began writing a novel (which was far, far too long ago), but next week, there won’t be any room for doubt. Publishing a novel is a huge milestone for any writer, and for me it seems the culmination of a hell of a lot of work (and periods without any work, where I felt guilty a lot).
(Also odd. Why guilt?)
One thing I get next week is a book tour. It is currently a very modest little book tour, with two events in two cities not far from each other, but those are two more events than I have ever had before. As opposed to, say, launch events for anthologies, or open mic sessions, they are events solely about me and my book.
Thankfully, I am not onstage all by myself, as I am blessed with excellent people to introduce me and chair the sessions – historical novelist Sara Sheridan for the launch at Blackwell’s, and my editor Gill Tasker for the event at Waterstone’s Sauchiehall Street.
But it is still freaking scary, as a) I don’t get to retreat after ten minutes and let someone else take the microphone, and b) THAT’S ME ON THE POSTERS.
But hey, I’m a novelist. I have to promote my book, even if it’s terrifying. I also have to accept that at some point, someone will say nasty things about the book, either to my face or in a public forum. (Lovely!boyfriend has already been instructed that his role in this matter is to let me vent at him, so that I do not write vituperative blog posts.) This is nothing I’ve ever had to deal with before.
I’d say it all starts next week, but as any writer knows, it all starts when you’re thirteen and convinced that you will be on the NYT bestseller list before you can legally drive. Maybe you are a novelist even then, and I wouldn’t tell anyone how to identify themselves. But soon, I absolutely will be.