September 1, 2020 § Leave a comment
I didn’t immediately consider that the publishing house my friend and mentor, Camelia Elias, has been running for twenty years applied to me, an author with a book ready to publish. The publishing process is meant to be impersonal, distant, fraught with anxiety and self-doubt. One doesn’t simply Facebook message a friend.
But then came a pandemic. Suddenly, the proposal I had written detailing events I could do to promote my book seemed completely unrealistic and pointless. The doors to publishing either shut completely or went flying open. All the gatekeepers of those doors were left scrambling to assess how to proceed. While publishing felt stalled and unrealistic, my book still pulsed with life and the desire to be out and held and read by others.
In the midst of the great global unravelling, I enrolled for my second time in Camelia’s very popular Cards and Magic course. During a rather lusty spell for fame and fortune, I remembered the collection of her own books, books that I have held and travelled with and underlined messily, books her devoted students share and post about with unbridled ardor. I remembered that she was the Editor-in-Chief of a Danish publishing company.
I found myself fantasizing about embarking on a very public project with a very personal friend. A shift from thinking in strictly business terms. Suddenly it was very clear that the dream of a major deal paled in comparison to the desire I had to publish with a woman I respected and loved and could offer me a contract that protected my rights instead of seizing them.
Not everyone is so graced with a personal friend who is the counterpart to their goal. But I had a book, and my friend had a publishing house, and we both possessed a similar spirit of conquest. Would I stay the traditional course or say let’s go all in for our mutually unassured success? Neither course provided any certainty. That was the real trick of it. If everything was equally uncertain, why not choose the path in which I got to write a love letter to my publisher in place of the typical query and proposal?
I still had all the credentials that filled the sections of my proposal and made me a great catch for agents and publishers: an Instagram following I’d grown and tended to for years, a place where I had honed my writing skills—very publicly—by writing mini memoirs as the events in my memoir unfolded in real time. I had years of being published and interviewed and showcased for the voice and experience and perspective I brought to my subject matter. Camelia herself had personally requested I contribute to a compilation that she was compiling of her cartomancy students several years earlier. I gathered my reputation around me like a cloak and reached out.
“Why not!” Camelia exclaimed when I lyrically asked if EyeCorner Press would consider publishing my memoir. But she added, “You are a winner and a star and have a bestseller on your hands. Choosing to publish with us is very make it or break it. I am zen enough for break it, make sure that you are, too.”
My ideas of success can run wild like horses pounding their way across a desolate beach. Success feels simultaneously collective as it does extremely personal. Choosing this international and independent route would be in line with the story of my life, which is also the premise of my memoir. I have spent my entire life having to get inside public buildings by the back door when stairs prevented me from accessing the front door in my wheelchair. It’s what I know best. Magically and literally. I’d much rather be in the company of people who sneak up the garbage ramp with me and take the freight elevator to the VIP area, acting like we own the very place we were barely allowed in in the first place.
I define success for myself based on how I want to feel while I am doing what I plan to do, regardless of who gives me permission or support. And I want it to be romantic.
“I want your words to go high, go a long way, and be cherished.” Camelia said as we discussed contract details. Her love letter response.
We did magic together. Those few months when it was just Camelia, my book and me, wrapped in a honeymoon cocoon of fonts and design and strategy. I was deeply connected to every part of the process. So when it was time to release my book, my heart was strong and open and ready to let go. I still get goosebumps of fleshy pleasure over the flourishes in the font she chose that make my story look like a fairytale. A story that is truer than true.