Writing a book is a weird way to make a living. It’s no different, qualitatively, than any other profession. You sit at your desk every day and work on a project until it’s done, then turn it in. It could just as well be a TPS report or a client’s taxes or a law brief. The big difference comes when it goes out to do its work in the world. By nature, a book is public, and a book tries to get as much attention as it can, and it invites people to have opinions about it. It’s as if your TPS report or tax filing were widely distributed to random people throughout the country, who then took to the internet and various publications to offer their opinions on it, then sent you gifts or hate mail depending on how well they thought you did.
Lucky for me at this moment, the world has generally decided my TPS report was good. So good that they send me gifts and notes and say very nice things, occasionally in very prominent public places. People always tell you that if you listen to the good reviews, you have to listen to the bad, so you shouldn’t listen to any of them. But I am here to tell you it’s very hard to not listen to the good ones.
I went away for a week to Chicago, my hometown, to promote the book there. It couldn’t have been a better time to go, since momentum has built a little since Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted‘s release in May. The great surprise of a solid New York Times Book Review piece came on the day I was flying home. (That part was a nightmare, the flying, do not fly Spirit Airlines, despite the very low prices, I beg you.) I participated in some pretty dreamy events, including a reading at Boswell Books in Milwaukee the same day it’s proprietor, the spectacular Daniel Goldin, recommended the book on NPR. I had a book launch party at the Hemingway house in Oak Park, two blocks from where I once lived while toiling as editor of Accessory Merchandising and Residential Lighting magazines and getting over a massive breakup. I spoke as part of a panel that was moderated by the brilliant and funny John Warner, editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and the brilliant and funny David Misch, who wrote Muppets Take Manhattan (!!!) and now Funny: The Book. I walked around Chicago’s Printers’ Row Lit Fest on a perfect day, ran into people I knew, and bought ridiculously cute shirts from Novel-Ts that look like baseball jerseys for famous authors: I got Dororthy Parker, which features a martini glass as its logo on the front and has her name on the back. (And #29, a nod to the times during which she was writing.)
When I got back to New York, I found myself with the best kinds of reviews you could ask for: Gifts and thank you notes stuffed in my mailbox. I’d gotten a vintage TV Guide featuring the women of The Mary Tyler Moore Show from one reader, Pamela Wagner, who came to my book party in Chicago. To that awesomeness I got to add today some business cards the props department once made for Mary and Rhoda, courtesy of Marta Acosta, who heard about the book on NPR and sent them to me so they’d have an appreciative home. And finally, I got a lovely card from Mindy Kaling, to whom I’d sent the book after chatting with her about it on Twitter. (One of the MTM writers had told me that her favorite current show was The Mindy Project, which I thought was perfect.) That’s a classy lady, you guys.
So today, for now, I’ve decided: I’m listening to the good reviews.