Justify: Why external validation (sometimes) matters

At birth, we’re all allotted a certain number of really special nights, so it’s imperative that we spend them 1231286_10151725953998355_131113037_n-1wisely. Some are allotted more than others. We’ll set aside the inherent unfairness of the world because I don’t have hours to bemoan something we all know to be true. Not when I’ve got a second book to write. These are the nights when the planets align, the stars sing your praises, and the really incredible people you’ve somehow managed to meet over the years come together.

I used one of my really special nights for my book release party last Friday (Aug. 30) and I have no regrets whatsoever. It’s true that the party was a whirlwind and my memories are mostly hazy—a series of faces and images and a general sense of elation and well being. I saw friends I haven’t talked with in person in years. They came from Los Angeles, from far-flung corners of SLO County, from Indiana. My high school teacher drove up from Prunedale—my hometown—with his wife. I felt, and pardon me from deviating from my general sarcastic tone to become unforgivably sentimental for a moment, so incredibly special. So incredibly loved. All those lonely, isolating hours I spent writing and editing, pursuing this unlikely dream after every imaginable literary agent and publisher slammed the door in my face, and suddenly all these incredible people had materialized. And they were rooting for me. Had been all along, I now realize, only I was so busy trying to accomplish the damn thing that I didn’t notice.

That one special night justified every decision I’ve made. The profession that just barely pays the bills and prompts well-meaning relatives to give me books with titles like You’re an English Major, Now What?. The near-constant terror that I’m kidding myself. That I’ve been kidding myself all along, but was too stubborn to see it. My sense of frustration at my inability to afford a house. My fear that all my whimsical quirks are just failures to grow up and do the things that grown ups do.

Because if such a large group of incredible, talented people were willing to depart from their typical goings on and schedules to lend me support: to set up dollhouses, to create artwork for my book, to provide advice and encouragement, to board a plane from Indiana, to hop in a car from Los Angeles, to buy a book from a nobody author (especially when budgets are tight), then I have made the right choices for myself. I have forged the path that’s right for me. It probably wouldn’t make sense to the majority of people. In fact, I’m sure it wouldn’t. But I know I can’t possibly describe—and I may be undermining your view of me as a writer by admitting this—the surreal feeling of having people you respect and admire asking you to sign the book that you wrote after they bought it. No alcohol or drug could replicate that heady high. It just couldn’t.

So if you were there, if you shared this terribly special night,

thank you.

If you couldn’t share that night, but bought the book on Amazon,

thank you.

If you’ve offered me a single word of encouragement, hope, or advice,

thank you.

Admittedly, I feel a little like the precocious neighborhood kid with the lemonade stand all the kind-hearted adults feel compelled to patronize. And the suspicion that I’ve cornered my friends and colleagues into buying (and reading, egads!) a book they might not like is akin to swallowing a very large, very bitter lemon. Coated in pesticide. It’s impossible to feel worthy of such kindness and support. But the beauty of this elation, this confidence, this balm to my battered and tattered confidence, is that I sail into the lonely writing phase of my second novel with enough confidence and joy to billow my imaginative sails and … I’m just going to stop right now. I’ll refrain from being sentimental until I’m recounting the events of my next book release party. Clear your schedules for fall 2014 or February 2015.



  1. So honored and excited to help make your special day, well, special! For the record, I never felt pressured to buy or even read your book. I’ve been nothing but excited to read it from the get go and I am enjoying it very much!

  2. Enjoy that high. Congrtulations!

  3. Enjoy that high. Congratulations!


  1. […] after all that effort–writing and editing and formatting–I hit the publish button, threw an incredible book release party, and then moved on. I started writing Vestal, finished writing Vestal, started writing Book Three, […]

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