Recently I had to solicit blurbs for my new book.
This is the always-humbling process of offering your manuscript to big-name authors and begging them for a glowing and ecstatic and over-the-top recommendation that can be printed on the book’s back cover. Words like “heralding” and “new voice in American letters” and “the one we have been waiting for” are always welcome.
The first time I did this, twenty years ago for PRAYING FOR SHEETROCK, was the worst. Famous authors are busy; famous authors are snowed-under; famous authors don’t really LIKE getting 400-page manuscripts in the mail from strangers. So, soliciting blurbs is humbling AND living with children is humbling. Living with children keeps at bay any idea you might form about your importance to American literature.
Twenty years ago, as I searched for blurbs for SHEETROCK, I didn’t know my children were watching. I hadn’t assumed it made an impression on anyone. But one spring evening in 1991, I was caught in a vast gridlock of rush-hour traffic on Buford Highway with three Girl Scouts, including nine-year-old Molly, in the backseat.
We sat bumper-to-bumper for two, five, ten minutes, in a sea of motionless traffic, while a traffic light went from green to red, to green, to red on the horizon, and a rush-hour pan-handler began working the lanes of cars. This man had a plastic bucket and a piece of cardboard with him. He tapped on drivers’ windows and showed them his cardboard, which probably explained that he was homeless. The three little girls in the backseat followed his progress.
“What is that man doing?” asked one of the Girl Scouts. I opened my mouth to explain the concept of “panhandling,” but before I could get a word out, Molly offered: “I’m pretty sure he’s trying to get blurbs for his new book.”