She hated publicity

I should get that tattooed on me instead of the David Foster Wallace quote (start, end) I’m actually going for. It’s from one of my unpublished novels, Melly Mockingbird:

Clyde Fortenay had lived within earshot of Fenway Park since he was four years old. The Boston papers made much of this when he was drafted, and also of his age at the time (seventeen). If she’d known the fuss it would cause, Bronwyn said, she never would have let him skip a grade. She hated publicity, although she had been involved with people who needed it, in one way or another, for as long as Clyde could remember.

Much as I want to be known for my work, I have tremendous difficulty doing any kind of self-promotion. In the six months since The One-Way Rain came out, my publicity efforts have slowed and, finally, stalled. And I feel awful about it. I feel shame about being self-published and self-recrimination about not working hard enough to reach my readers. I’ve questioned my whole trajectory as a writer and gone down into the Seasonal Affective Disorder rabbit-hole every night, and I probably would have driven Kyle crazy by now if they didn’t happen to be the most patient person alive. Well, to cut to the chase, two folks whose opinions I could not value more highly have told me to hire a publicist. On both occasions I experienced a great wave of relief. It would be wonderful not to have to carry around this conviction that I’m failing my book and myself. I don’t know if this idea is going to work out, but I’ll give it a try.

I bet you’re thinking I can’t work antiracism into this post. You’re wrong! If I were a Black woman, chances are good that I wouldn’t be able to afford to take this step. As I’ve explained elsewhere on this blog, white privilege paid me money. Racial-justice educator Debby Irving, the author of Waking Up White, makes the same point (much more clearly and thoroughly) in her discussion of the G.I. Bill and redlining:

I thought of the house I live in now, partially paid for with money my parents accumulated through their GI Bill-subsidized education and purchase of “Best” white real estate. I thought of how the leg-up the government gave my family had compounded into wealth my parents passed on to me and my white siblings, a phenomenon duplicated in white families coast to coast.

Her advantages, Irving concludes, came at the price of someone else’s disadvantage. And so it is with me. I inherited the money that I used to publish my book, and there’s enough left over (more or less; I consider it a retirement fund, but as one of my advisors pointed out to me, it’s probably worth my mental health at this point to make a withdrawal) for a publicist. Once again, being white gives me a helping hand that other people don’t have.

UPDATE: I gotta stop posting entries like this. Inevitably, it turned out that finding a publicist is more complicated than I expected (two that I really wanted to work with don’t take books after publication, because the pre-pub period is so important). So anyway, currently I’m not looking too hard.

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