When I got my book deal last fall, it was naturally a cause for celebration. There’d been years and years of tears, angst, and rejection that had preceded that phone call from my agent Carly, telling me we had an offer.
For a good ten minutes after I put the phone down, I couldn’t stop crying: tears of relief, of joy, of the particular type you cry when the thing you’ve longed for so hard and nearly lost faith would ever happen happens. I hugged my co-workers: who popped a bottle of champagne during the one o’clock meeting in my honor. I called my mom and dad and boyfriend. Later I called a number of friends who had been reassuring me for years that this day would come. I went out to dinner with my boyfriend to our favorite restaurant where yet more champagne was had. It was a great day. So yes, I celebrated. And then, as quickly as I could, I got back to work.
There’s plenty of work that goes into a book once the deal is made, and perhaps even more crucially, I rededicated my efforts to working on the next book. I know all too well what a potentially perilous time the debut book release can be for an author: that thrilling and destabilizing mix of anticipation and fear. Writing is the thing that has always kept me sane; I knew I’d need it now more than ever.
When I saw Judith Curr, president and publisher of Atria, give the keynote address during the San Francisco Writers Conference last February, she made some comments about goal-setting really stuck with me. She advocated being specific about goals and celebrating each milestone along the way, rather than gritting your teeth and losing perspective. She told us that she buys herself a piece of jewelry every time she has a big success, to remind her of what went into it.
I had always planned to do the same when I got my book deal. I’m not much of a jewelry person, but there is one piece I’ve always coveted: the Cartier Love Bracelet. The bracelet actually plays a role in my novel and I’d always imagined that once I sold the book, I’d buy myself one. I envisioned it dangling delicately from my wrist as I typed, reminding me of the journey I’d been on, inspiring me to continue on when I wasn’t feeling so hopeful. But once my advance check was received and stashed away in my savings, taxes begrudgingly paid on it, I just couldn’t do it. The bracelet is obscenely expensive—which is sort of the point, to buy myself something I would normally abstain from—but the money felt too loaded, it felt like I’d worked harder for that money than every other dollar I’ve earned in my life combined.
Then a couple of months ago I got an email from my editor that the audio rights to my book had been sold to Brilliance Audio. I almost didn’t know how to process such news. The idea that something could happen with my work without me having to hustle for it was incomprehensible. And there would be a second smaller advance to boot! Unlike the original advance money—which I felt tempted to convert to gold bars so that I could look at it and keep it forever—this felt so random and unexpected that it was more like winning money from a slot machine than earning it. This money I felt okay spending.
But the bracelet still didn’t feel right. Much like my main character Brooke, I’ve changed a lot during the unfolding of this book. When I was living in New York, the Cartier bracelet would have been just the thing. But now? I wanted something that could take me places, that could help me appreciate how far I’ve come just to end up right back where I started: Seattle.
It turns out the cost of a Cartier bracelet will buy you a really nice road bike. And a week ago, I became the proud owner of a Bianchi Impulso. Feeling the slick carbon frame fly underneath me on my inaugural ride with my boyfriend this weekend, I knew I’d chosen well. It might have been the best money I’d ever made, but it also feels like the best money I’ve ever spent.