There is a(n exquisite) passage from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams that I had my childhood friend read at my wedding (yes, it made people cry). I find that something about it is apropriate for my current change of life, and the realizations I’m having about becoming public, and making my books “real.”
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
So, my book is not-quite-out-there now, but it is announced. It’s got a presence in the real world, and a tentative launch date. It is becoming, and that is a process we all know well. I am becoming along with it- we are all, always, becoming- but I am also already real, to a degree. And my book, my baby, the fruit of my soul, is about to become real as well.
Suddenly I can imagine what it must be like for a parent to leave their first-born at school for the first time, and then college, and then life after that… I want the best for my baby. I want her to meet the people that will love her for who she is, and who will take all the love she has to give. And really, I think I need to foster that same attitude. Like a parent must learn to accept that their own child (though they have put much of themselve into her) is not a reflection of them or who they are, so an author needs to be able to do the same.
There will be many authors who disagree with me, but this is how I tell stories: when I write, I don’t write to express myself or who I am; I don’t write to impress; I don’t write to teach, or express an opinion. I write because a story has come to me, and I feel compelled to do my best to translate that idea into text, and to shape it into something that will most closely resemble the original thought and feeling of the story. But the story is there before I write it.
So, in a way, the resulting book doesn’t even belong to me.
Yeah, I did the hard work, and I crafted the words. I shaped the worlds and characters and events. I interpreted the idea. There is a lot of me that goes into everything I write, whether fiction or non. But I can’t say that the story itself is mine- it belongs to us all.
This story- The Poppet and the Lune– is about to go out into the world. It’s about to be loved, hated, seen as something worn out and ugly, and seen as something striking and beautiful. It’s about to leave the nest, and become real. For more people than just myself and those of you who read her as a fledgling web serial.
And that’s… kind of amazing. Kind of terrifying, too. But amazing.