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And We'll Work All Day In the Old-Fashioned Way*

(*Anytime I can sneak in a Richard Thompson reference is a good writing day for me.)

I tend not to do end-of-year-rumination things -- whether on social media or in private correspondence -- but this, the last day of 2023, seems like a reasonable case to make an exception.

Three hundred and 65 days ago, I was not yet a published author, although the process in becoming one was underway.

Then on June 6, Transformation Summer had its official launch.

That also was around the time I started this blog, with the expectation -- or hope, anyway -- that I would update it regularly, maybe even once a week if not more. Wellll, that didn't go exactly according to plan. Stuff Happened, to put it succinctly, but I also have come to appreciate that there is a certain discipline involved in keeping a blog or similar medium: Though you be weary, in body, in spirit, though you be sick of looking at a computer screen and running your fingers across a typing keyboard, ya just gotta do it. Can't promise I'll improve in 2024 (oh, by the way, I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, either), but I'll do my best.

Anyway: Since June 6, people have often asked me about the experience of being a first-time published author. The answer is at once simple and complicated. Above all, it feels great to be a published author, which is not a status easily achieved -- there's a consensus in the industry that the chances of getting your book published are between 1 to 2 percent (I looked it up).

So, I feel very fortunate to have overcome those odds, especially because publishing a book was not something I'd had on my list of Things I Must Do. Like most any ink-stained wretch/journalist, of course, I certainly always wondered what it might be like to be an author, but I certainly did not aspire to it. Even when, some 13 years ago, I began a period of writing fiction (culminating in the creation of Transformation Summer), I did not do so with the express purpose of publishing something. Even once I started writing Transformation Summer, I had no inkling that I'd even have a finished draft to send out to publishing houses. As I've said to people, throughout the year-and-a-half-plus I worked on the book, and the months that followed when I made some tweaks based on suggestions from my three friends/beta readers, my mindset was "Well, I've gotten this far. Why not keep going?"

What's more, I genuinely like this thing I made. My editor at Atmosphere Press encouraged me to consider some changes to the original draft, and I believe his involvement helped to make it a better book. Oh, I certainly don't hold it up as the Great American Novel, or a Book That Everyone Will Love. I just feel that I was able to realize the vision I had for this story, and the result is the best possible Transformation Summer it can be.

But simply publishing a book is not the end in of itself. You gotta sell the thing, and this is where it gets complicated. Some of that work is done by the publisher, but (unless one has an agent) a lot falls to the author, which means flogging the book on social media, email, press releases and so on, and making investments besides those of time -- buying Internet ads, for instance, or designating X number of copies as freebies for promotional purposes.

So when you see that book sales, how to put this...moribund? anemic? -- or when you get no response, not even a hard "No," to your media outreach or inquiries about holding a reading/discussion event, well, it's difficult not to experience a sense of rejection. And yet, that's the risk you run when you produce any kind of art -- paintings, sculpture, music, dance -- and decide you want to offer it for public consumption, right? Because your art is invariably part of who you are, you can't help but take it a little personally when the thing you produce doesn't even make any palpable impact; getting a negative review would at least be something, but being ignored somehow feels worse.

I've learned to live with this as a journalist. Sure, a lot of the stories I've done over the years have drawn praise, including from the people they concern, and some pieces have drawn criticism -- not a lot by comparison, thankfully. The vast majority of my portfolio, though, has vanished into the ether without any noticeable impact, like a feather touching down gently in the middle of a lake (OK, best metaphor I could come up with at the moment).

More to the point, I've also been on the receiving end of the press release, letter or email, asking me to consider doing a story on an event or a book or a person's experience. Sometimes I've said "Yes," sometimes I've said "No," and other times I've said nothing at all, usually because the story I'm being pitched simply has no relevance for my publication or its audience, and the person who sent me the pitch made no particular effort to convince me otherwise, so easiest to just let it fall by the wayside.

I follow a similar course in my personal life, too, and I imagine it's much the same for everyone. Do I go to every concert or reading or art-related event, or purchase every recording or book I read/hear about, even if it involves a friend or acquaintance? Not as much as I'd like to. It's just that life is busy right now, and there's so much happening already. I'm tired. It's hot out. It's cold out. I don't wanna drive all the way there, and then spend more time trying to find a place to park! Well, can't right now, but let me make a note to myself to get back to that.

So yeah, I understand that Transformation Summer is competing for the attention of the average human being (although to me, you'll never be "average" -- how's that for a pitch?) along with numerous other world/national/local/personal concerns as well as sources of entertainment and diversion. Maybe if it was 1923 instead of 2023, I'd have a better shot.

Ultimately, I fall back on what I said earlier: Being a published author is a rare, incredible and marvelous thing that I could never have imagined for myself. Until the Earth explodes or is transplanted to another dimension by a superior intelligence, there will always be a record somewhere, maybe on Google at least, that I published Transformation Summer.

And most of all, as 2023 draws to a close, I feel very grateful to everyone who encouraged or supported me in whatever way toward the achievement I realized this year. There have been a lot of you, which in and of itself is wonderful to contemplate. (Reminder: Posting an online review, such as on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, is very helpful to the cause, as is recommending the book to family, friends and acquaintances.)

I wish everyone the best for 2024, and for those who haven't gotten around to it yet, I'll just end with my tried-and-true promotional meme:

In case you're curious, the photo at the top was taken at my childhood home in Columbia County, New York

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