Oops! I Accidentally Self-Published My First Book.*

  "I really really like your book, and not just because I'm your mother."
            -My Mother

Last January the psychic Reverend Dave told me I was going to self-publish my first book and I would have laughed in his face if we hadn't been on the phone. The hell I am! There was no way  he was right about this even though he was right about a lot of other things. Suddenly I hated him. 

Brought up in the hard core world of literary arts, my plan was and had always been to find an agent who would then find a small but respectable publishing house so help me God if it was the last thing I ever did. 

But then, a week ago Thursday, the prototype for my handbook came in the mail. In the beginning of the year when  I was asked to teach a master class this fall, I realized it was time to create original source material for my classes. I had two great writers and friends, Sarah Allen-Short and Anne Carle Carson help me organize my thoughts. I had the amazing Bird Cox help me with layout. I chose a gorgeous drawing by artist Mary Chiaramonte for the cover. But despite my intention to make a really lovely downloadable PDF or a zine or a pile of papers stapled together at Kinko's, my talented friend, editor and graphic designer, Rob Collins, made the pages I wrote look an awful lot like a book.

Son of a bitch! I thought when a single copy of that book arrived in the mail. Reverend Dave was right! And I cried for an hour. Sobbed. I couldn't figure out all of the feelings immediately but then they came clear. If I was going to self-publish my first book it had goddamn well better be good. And all of the missing sections, the chapters I hadn't written or had left out formed like connective tissue in my brain. 

I started writing furiously, staying up late, waking up early, uncovering half finished works and getting other pieces ready. Luckily, the very next day I happened to be on my way to a retreat  previously dedicated to my longer manuscript, but completing the Halfway House for Writers Handbook took all priority. It came and came and came until Sunday morning it was done.

"I'm done," I said. "I've written a book," I said. "A book I'm going to publish myself." And I felt happy. Sema Wray, a beloved writing student on that retreat,  who'd given me a tiara for my 40th birthday, offered to throw me a launch party. I said "yes, please!"  I asked Ward if he'd be willing to sell my book at Chop Suey and he said, "Are you kidding? Of course!"  I asked my mother, a former English teacher, to read the second prototype that came in the mail and even though she's my mother the fact that she loved it made my heart soar. In fact, I think I should blurb her on the back. 

Reverend Dave was right. After all, my entire handbook is about healing from our writing wounds, finding the joy in creation, telling the truth and letting the process unfold naturally so I guess it makes perfect sense that, even unintentionally, I've ended up proving my own point. 


This is the second prototype on my front porch, about to be read by a turtle. 

This is the second prototype on my front porch, about to be read by a turtle. 

 *Save the date for a launch party Saturday, October 10, 4-6 pm at Chop Suey Books and The Writing Room!  Details to come. And yes, I plan to wear my tiara. 

Valley Haggard5 Comments