• Bella Mahaya Carter
  • [Body, Mind & Spirit] How I Felt When I Held My Book in My Hands for the First Time
This blog was featured on 10/10/2017
[Body, Mind & Spirit] How I Felt When I Held My Book in My Hands for the First Time

Last Friday I received Advance Reader Copies (ARC) of my memoir. I’d spent the morning working in my home office from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. I’d rolled out of bed, thrown on clothes, and headed straight for my office, foregoing personal grooming and food, which is my habit.

When I emerged from my workspace, tired and hungry, I found four boxes at my front door, noted my publisher’s return address, and knew my books had arrived. I flashed back on videos I’d seen on Facebook of fellow She Writes Press authors opening their ARC boxes on camera—capturing the big moment. I’d enjoyed those videos and thought that one day I’d do the same. But when my time finally came, I felt something I hadn’t expected: I wanted the moment to be mine alone. I didn’t want to share it—not yet—not even with my husband, who was working at his computer in the next room. I wanted to experience the moment all by myself. I wanted to take it very slowly and relish it fully and quietly. I wanted to listen and feel, without distractions.

I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and headed into the living room with one of the boxes. I cut the clear tape, opened the flaps, removed protective padding—and there it was: my memoir. The one I began outlining in 2011. The book I wrote, which also, in many ways, wrote me. It was heftier than I imagined: 288 pages. The front and back covers feature a celestial blue background with hot pink writing and spine to match. Everything was in order: interior design elements, Table of Contents, chapter headings, Acknowledgments, Author Bio.

It seemed like a miracle that my computer-generated pages had been transformed into this exquisite book. It felt like my pages were dressed in designer clothes. Of course that’s exactly what happened. My pages were designed by Tabitha Lahr, a SWP book designing pro. It occurred to me that my book was all dressed up and had places to go, people to meet, and things to do. The thought of releasing it into the world felt a little like sending my daughter off to college to begin her adult life, except I’d probably be more involved in the launch of my book—at least for awhile.

Holding my memoir in my hands, I wept with gratitude—for the journey, for having made it this far, for the generosity and love of the people who helped make it happen. For my family, and my publisher and writing coach, Brooke Warner. And so many others. And to the universe and whatever unknown, formless entities may have aided my journey.

I opened my memoir at random pages and read sentences and paragraphs. I recognized the words and the story, but again, my transcript had been transformed. It was as if my Cinderella manuscript, once dressed in rags, was now decked out in a ball gown! I wrote that on Facebook. What a feeling!

That moment humbled me. I used to think people “arrived” in life. As a child I believed grown-ups had arrived. They were done learning. They knew everything. I had no idea life was one big school and that I’d be learning every step of the way. I didn’t understand that the closest I’d come to “arriving” would involve being absolutely present in any given moment. In order to do this I have to slow way down—I move fast—and harness the wild horses of my mind and guide them back to the moment, which, although it doesn’t always feel like it, is a miracle.

In stopping to appreciate this milestone, I “arrived” in the sense that I was really there—fully present, my senses alert. There was, too, a lovely feeling of accomplishment, of completion—and hopes that others would derive benefits from my labor of love.

Opening my ARCs—that moment—was mine alone. I shared it with my soul. We did our little happy dance. And then, slowly, when I’d lived the moment fully and completely, I reached out—first to my husband, then to my daughter, sister, friends, and finally I took my excitement online to celebrate with my larger tribe. Having people I care about in my life, who also care about me, make the celebration sweeter.

Authors, how did you feel when you held your book in your hands for the first time? Please share. Or, if you’re not yet published, how do you think or imagine it might feel?

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  • Renee Linnell

    Bella, I agree with Sandra! I love your voice, your heart, and your hair! And your article moved me and made me cry. My pub date is Oct 9, 2018 and I am so excited. I imagine I will handle the arrival of my ARCs the same way, wanting to have the moment to myself. And, somehow, in the last week, I finally realized I have arrived; that being present in the moment IS the grand awakening. My cat has taught me that! When she meows to sit on my lap I stop what I'm doing, take 3 deep breaths and say to her, "Let's stop the world"...then I pull all my scattered mental energy in from the future and my "to do list" and stay in the moment with her as long as possible. Anyway, it is so lovely to know others have discovered this secret to arrival, as well!

  • Sandra Joseph

    Bella, I love your voice, your heart, your hair. Thank you for this beautiful story. That moment will be coming for me soon and I'm excited and nervous about what it will feel like.