Getting Published: A Few Notes

Surprised. I mistakenly thought that only writers or others in literary circles could appreciate how mind-blowing it is to have someone publish your words, the toil of many years, sometimes decades. Many friends and readers, many I didn’t know personally, have been almost as excited as I was. 

Incredible odds. People don’t need to know the statistics of how many good writers there are vying for publication, how many new MFAs are getting their degrees in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction every year, how many more men are getting published than women. All of this is true. People get it. Getting a book published can be compared to lightning striking.

VIDA. However, if you want some numbers, check out this web site: VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. We Count. It’s a nonprofit that has been tracking forty literary journals and other reputable magazines since 2010. The annual VIDA Count documents gender disparities in publishing. Their numbers represent what is happening in the larger publishing world. 

Write a book? Never. Never. Uh-uh. Committing to write a book didn’t play in my imagination. When I became a writer, I wrote short pieces. I could visualize vignettes, personal essays and poetry. Never a book.

mss submit

Lightbulb. However, I started writing and something happened. I realized that my stories were not just about me. The voices of local people born and living in Hawai’i were few and far between. These voices are important in the story of America, that is, the United States of America. Millions of people have some connection to these islands. And yet, our stories are not known, not told. Stories and diverse voices are essential in understanding ourselves, our country, our world. My consciousness of the importance of literature expanded in the creative process. 

Kūlia. Persevere. I kept writing. I completed a manuscript. I started to submit it in 2014 to various book contests and wrote query letters to various publishers. Moments of deep discouragement halted my momentum from time to time, but I kept revising and submitting my manuscript over the years until Willow Books contacted me in March 2018: I had won their book contest! Finally, a publisher! My book The Lava Never Sleeps would be in bookstores out in the world. It is available as a paperback and an e-book.

yellow ginger, TLNS books

Fronds of fragrant yellow ginger grace the book table for my Santa Barbara reading.

No matter the odds, perseverance can make all the difference. Luck is good. So is talent. However, those who persevere through rejection after rejection, through disappointment and despondency (believe me, I know it’s tough!), are more likely to achieve their goals, i.e. getting published! 

 

Being an Author

Being an author requires marketing and promoting your book. It’s another side of myself I am getting to know. I am still not completely comfortable with this New Self, who’s always focused on her book, but so far she is behaving herself and not being totally obnoxious!

It feels like the cells of my body are rearranging themselves to accommodate this New Self. My old self did not feel comfortable in the spotlight, but would gladly support others to take the center of attention.

At AWP in March, I was handing out my publicity postcards to people I’d just met at the Portland Convention Center, leaving them on information tables, and so on. I had to make self-promotion part of my daily life.

PL portrait

Portland Reading

I first went public as an author of The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir at Passages Bookshop in Portland to a SRO crowd in late March. The reading featured several Willow Books authors at an off-site event during the conference.

Having printed lots of postcards to help promote my memoir, I unabashedly distributed them. The book cover is visually attractive and I hoped it would get people’s attention and generate interest in the book.

I was nervous about Seattle book launch scheduled for Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park on May 2. Since May is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I wanted to connect my book to this national cultural observation. It seemed to make sense even though API Heritage Month is not hugely recognized. LFP poster.jpg

I wasn’t sure who would actually show up although I was talking to people in all my various communities. And, yes, handing out postcards.

I planned and rehearsed my reading.

I made arrangements to serve island-style snacks like taro chips, mocha crunch, coconut candy, and butter mochi cake. Hawai’i people love their snacks! My friends helped me with the shopping and displaying/arranging the snacks for the reading with table cloths, ti leaves, plumeria blossoms.LFP book display snacks

As more and more people arrived, additional chairs had to be added to the original 40 already set up.

It felt overwhelming: So many people wanted to support me and my book. Longtime friends, my mahjongg sisters, colleagues at North Seattle College, people in my tai chi group, my neighbors in the apartment building where I live, and of course my writing friends.

Writing friends in Santa Barbara and Atlanta sent a bouquet of flowers. My Seattle friends surprised me with several lei, which touched me very much. 

LFP audience of friends neighborVery humbled and grateful for the SRO crowd standing in the aisles between bookshelves, I began the reading with an ancient canoe chant. I felt the aloha in the room during my reading and later as I signed books.

A friend came over from Pt. Townsend. Other

LFP ti leaf

Showing the book cover and a ti leaf. My mother used many of these to make the ti-leaf skirt shown on the cover.

friends came from the Eastside whom I had not seen in decades. It was a wonderful evening of surprises! I could not have wished for a better book launch and celebration for my book.

A definite celebration because people understand how dang hard it is to get published by any traditional press. It can take years, which it did for me.

Here’s the thing. There are no guarantees when you’re a writer. You can only keep writing, keep learning your craft, keep submitting, ride the emotional roller-coaster, and just keep going. Persevere is the mantra if a writer wants to become an author. Or as they say in Hawaiian: Kulia!