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What to “Expect” When You’re Debuting

2017 was a strange year.

It began with me wandering through the cold, seemingly-solitary halls of being between agents. I worked endlessly on a book that I wasn’t able to see clear solutions for, but had so much potential it made me want to cry at times. Okay, all the time. I cried all the time.

The first half of that year was very rough, and I tried to keep those low feelings to myself, mostly curled up tight to my chest in bed at night before I fell asleep or the first few moments of being awake.

Yet remarkable things began to happen as I opened myself to possibility in the second half of that year. I ended up finding exactly the right agent for me. I gradually let go of the book with so much potential and allowed it to float back onto the shelf. Late in the year, I wrote the first draft of what would be the Daredevils series in a feverish haze filled with glee and excitement.

2017 laid the breadcrumbs for 2018.

I haven’t spoken about this very much until now… but 2019 was also a strange year.

It is an odd thing, to learn in 2018 that you have two books coming out in 2020. You wonder what the year in between will be like. There’s not a lot of glamor in the waiting. You’re working hurriedly behind the scenes, trying to get those two books ready for the world. You’re biting your fingernails and peeking through the curtain into social media, trying to guess where in the giant pile of amazing books your little ones will fall.

Meanwhile, you cry at times. Okay, all the time. But it isn’t about books.

I’ve tried to be brave about my journey with fertility, or rather, infertility. In February 2019 I posted about my efforts to get pregnant with my partner. But after March I went quiet.

I had finally gone to the fertility doctor, thinking I was taking control of my future and getting solutions. A month later, after many tests and exams, my partner and I left merely with diagnoses of infertility.

The pain I felt from March through August is something I would never wish on anyone—not even the lady who was really really rude to me in the Trader Joes parking lot that one time. Close friends and family who saw glimpses of my pain advised me to focus on the upcoming debut next year instead.

“You have a book baby,” they said. “That can be enough for now.”

It was not enough.

I felt torn between devastation and hope, which can be its own form of devastation when you let it fill you up month by month only to watch it drain away.

I’m not proud of how I channeled those feelings now, but at the time, the only thing I could think to do after the infertility diagnosis was to punish my body.

I hated the scars that wrapped tight around my fallopian tubes thanks to years of endometriosis. I hated the tiny brain tumor that still sat on my pituitary gland, benign but present, always threatening to throw my hormones into imbalance.

I had lost over twenty pounds the year before as I got into running. Despite outsiders commenting that my face seemed gaunt or arms too thin, I was determined to run more than ever over the summer. I wanted to turn my half marathon weekend runs into full marathon weekend runs. I wanted to run faster. I wanted to breathe harder. I wanted my thrumming heart to fill up my ears and shut out the sobbing voice in my head.

…my body had other plans.

Early that summer, my knee gave out. I thought I was truly at war with myself. But even in war, one faction must acknowledge when the other is too weak to fight back. After a few weeks of failed one-mile runs, my knee could barely keep me upright while walking through a grocery store. So I finally took myself to physical therapy in late July and began to figure out how to care for this physical shell of me I had been so cruel to.

I did not run at all for over a month. I gained ten pounds. I rolled out twice a day and did stretches and exercises that would take two hours at a time to complete.

“Healing is work,” my physical therapist told me when I griped. “It’s not just turning your attention to other goals. You have to be mindful of your body.”

I grudgingly set my mind to the work of healing.

By the end of August, I graduated from physical therapy.

I also learned that we had become pregnant.

I think people love to have answers for strange phenomenon. There were lots of answers tossed out there when we shared the news with others. So many people were certain it was because I finally had let the pressure of motherhood go, and therefore I got pregnant. (To this theory I smile demurely, knowing I never for a second actually let that dream out of my grip.) Others were certain it was from the physical therapy, or the weight gain.

Maybe it was all of these things. I don’t think I’ll ever truly know.

Whatever the reason, whatever the factor, I do know that I will now have the incredible privilege of waddling into my debut book launch in late March in a rainbow sequined dress that will have me looking like a queer disco ball (my ultimate brand, honestly.) I do not take this privilege lightly. I know how impossible this seemed a year ago. I am grateful for every second.

But even as an author, and not as an expectant mother, I remain grateful for this strange and wonderful convergence of events.

I will be expecting my first child right in between releasing my two 2020 books. This news changes so much of what I thought my debut year would look like:

I had imagined scraping funds together and traveling across the country to visit roller derby leagues everywhere. I thought I might skate into my book launch event and sail smack into one of the bookcases. The year 2020 filled up fast with images and plans of me using every molecule in my body to push push push for my book’s success out in the world.

…my body made other plans.

Thank goodness.

What I am most grateful for with this pregnancy concerning my debut is not that I will be a rainbow disco ball (though that will certainly be fabulous), but that my expectations and perspective over debut year have shifted drastically.

Of course I want my books—and this series—to do well. Of course I want to keep following my dream of being a professional author.

But in the end, there’s only so much I can do as one person. I hope the Daredevils will connect with readers, and get passed from classroom to classroom, hand to hand. Yet that outcome is, in fact, no longer in my hands. I’ve passed the book forward at this point. It’s a trust fall I want to lean into, and knowing that my energy will be focused on a very tiny human come summer 2020 helps me to lean into that trust fall.

2019 ended up laying down the breadcrumbs for a much different 2020 than I had imagined, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m so glad to get the opportunity to see myself as more than just one book—or even two books—over this coming year. And if you are a fellow Roaring 20s debut author, I encourage you to peer into all the wonderful facets that you are made of as you march into this year. You are more than just this book. You are more than just an author. Whatever happens, you will maintain resilience and emerge at the end of debut even stronger than you are in this moment.

The year might go exactly as we want. Or it might be another breadcrumb year. For we often need those unexpected transitions in order to get to our next breakthrough—our next big thing.

I hope this year brings, in one way or another, exactly what you need.

I hope 2020 is a strange and wonderful year.

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