THE WORDS THAT MATTER MOST
Coming up to my August book launch, my excitement is starting to give way to nerves. It’s funny how a year ago, when Viking bought my novel, I was thrilled. I was sincerely just happy to know that it would be bound, that it would have an ISBN number, that the Library of Congress would mark its existence.
But now, of course, I want people to read it. And to read it, they must buy it, and find it. But the reality of bookselling is that there are fewer real stores, fewer shelves, fewer chances of a new novel finding its way in front of the eyes of people who might want to read it.
I’ve told myself I’m up for the task of finding a readership. I will maintain an online presence, build an author platform, reach out to book clubs.
But sometimes life gets discouraging, as we all know. Last night I woke at 2am to the sound of my daughter’s coughing. She has CF and it’s been a lifelong up and down health issue, but one we are accustomed to and one we deal with in a positive manner. It’s always a shadow though, especially in the middle of the night, and then once awake, all I could do was consume myself with how many interesting-sounding, good-looking books are out there for sale. I imagined my book sinking into a tangle of late summer overgrowth. Finally I willed myself to stop, be positive, and go back to sleep.
This morning, the first thing I saw online was Teddy Roosevelt’s diary page on the morning of his wife’s death–so simple, so stark:
The light has gone out of my life.
I was instantly filled with gratitude for the universe that had sent what seemed like a sign: Fool, rejoice at what you have! The words that matter most are not the words in my book, not really. Didn’t I just write a post about how that book is out in the world and out of my hands?
The words that matter most are “you have your daughter, your husband, your family, your friends.” My husband and I experienced early loss: his beloved brother at 29, my father at 59, so we are perhaps extra thankful, aware that we are all so transient.
“Yes,” the universe then confirmed, “and now here is Nora Ephron’s eulogy in the New York Times for you to read and tear up at.”
I have always felt a silly but real connection to Nora because we shared a May 19 birthday. After choking up at the grief still so palpable on TR’s diary page, my eyes completely spilled over at Charles McGrath’s pitch-perfect eulogy to the woman who could make you smile and cry at once.
Nora Ephron’s writing was of a kind I admire most—the kind that touches at everything that is human and best in us. This ‘last list’ of hers is a list of ‘words that matter most.’ I hope she had pie at the end.
Nora Ephron: What I Will and Won’t Miss