Monday, December 30, 2013

Oh Mother.

"I just got to the part... and I don't know why everyone isn't reading this book!"

My mother just called from work to tell me that and I can only just begin to express how happy that makes me. My mother and I have a complicated relationship regarding my books. I blame her degree in psychology. She read SUMMER AT NINETEEN and proceeded to dissect it and tell me what she thought was based on real life which drove me absolutely bonkers. I can promise you, dear reader, that the location - the beach on Merwin Avenue in Milford, CT is real and I grew up spending my summers there, but that's where reality ends and fiction steps in. Though really, how nice would it have been at nineteen to meet and fall in love with Adam Carrera? A girl can dream, right? Hence why I wrote the book (born of sheer boredom one summer).

Moving on.

Five years ago I wrote a mammoth of a book about two sisters. That book, which I have not published, is my heart. Writing that book was extremely emotional for me. I was so consumed in that book that when it ended I cried. I felt like the characters had become family and I fell in love with them (and I know how weird that sounds because they are clearly a part of my imagination so that's basically saying I fell in love with myself... I swear I'm not that narcissistic). I was so excited to share it with friends and family and then my mother revealed (when I asked her why she was taking so long to read it) that she "just couldn't get through it". Puh! It was all the high school stuff that she couldn't deal with, she said. And I was crushed.

I've been known to hold a grudge. Here's a perfect example... My mother has straight hair. When my sister and I were little she would line us up on the stairs and take a brush to our curls. For all the straighties out there you're probably thinking, What's the big deal? For all the curlies out there, your jaw has likely hit the floor. We would cry every morning as she ripped through our curls, tugging until the brush made it all the way through. As a result, I have an iron scalp and I use nothing but my fingers to comb my hair. But I have never let my mother forget that she made us look absolutely ridiculous every single day while breaking our hair. Oh would you let it go! She likes to say. I'm sorry, but those hideous pictures of childhood just won't let me.

So when I published I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND I didn't let her read it. I don't think I even really told her anything about it. Because I didn't want her to only read half and then crush me even more. If you remember, when she did pick up a copy this happened and I was less than thrilled. So when she started reading in earnest I steeled myself.

Mom: I can see so much of your sister in Rigby.
To which my sister and I looked at each other and I was like, has Mom ever met you?

Mom: I can understand why more people aren't reading this. It's taking a while to get to the action.
And then, for what felt like the umpteenth time, since I had been silently responding to rejection letters that used the same reason to decline representation, I explained to her why I chose not to start the book with crazy action like so many other books.

And then something happened. She actually started loving the book. She'd call me in the morning to say what part she had just read and what she loved about it and I felt like the clouds had parted and angels were beginning to sing and it was like, If I can get my mother, the toughest critic I can imagine, to love this book then I must be on my way. 

Mom: Stephanie, I just love the way you paced this. At the end of each chapter there's this need to keep reading. It's great.
I may have blushed. 

And then, Mom: "I just got to the part... and I don't know why everyone isn't reading this book!"

Is it weird that at this part of my life I still crave my mother's praise? Well I do. So what.
If my mother is loving reading I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, being as critical as she is (I love you Mum!) then you surely will too. Right? Right?

Happy Reading!

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