While I was out

Despite a lingering cough and the need for frequent naps (ok, more frequent than usual), I think I’ve more or less recovered from my recent assorted ailments.  And during the weeks I was coughing / sneezing / sleeping, a lot of cool things have been happening around the book launch.  Here’s a roundup:

  • The most amazing thing is that Alice Walker (yes, THAT Alice Walker!) blurbed my book! Here’s what she has to say:

I love Minal Hajratwala’s book LEAVING INDIA. It is what I imagine India itself to be like: incomparable, sprawling, rich, surprising, very old and wise and forever capable of re-creating itself, no matter where pieces of it land. Minal Hajratwala is a fine daughter of the continent, bringing insight, intelligence and compassion to the lives and sojourns of her far-flung kin. For those of us who have needed to understand the presence of so many Indians in our various lands, this book is a wonderful primer.

If I were an engineer/electrician/sculptor, I’d wire this up in flashing lights and carry it around on my body and look at it every time I started to feel the slightest bit discouraged, or cranky, or anything less than completely grateful and excited to be alive and to be a writer.
I received the email about this blurb (incomparable!  sprawling!  rich!) when I was so very sick that I was spending about 20 of every 24 hours in bed. I printed it out, taped it up next to my pillow, then spent the next two days doing this: — blow nose — read Alice Walker quote — have coughing fit — read Alice Walker quote — try to sleep — get woken up by coughing — spit green phlegm and blood — read Alice Walker quote –
The green phlegm is gone, thank goodness, but the quote remains.  There’s still something very unreal about it for me. Alice Walker is one of my real heroes:  a writer who made me want to write, an activist who made me want to believe.  Her work has been a guiding beacon for me in terms of craft as well as integrity, story-telling, and spiritual depth.  For many years I had a larger-than-life framed photograph of her up in my writing space for inspiration and encouragement.  So I barely believe she’s real, let alone that she really read and commented on my work!  
In practical terms, this is way cool because it gives us something to put on the book jacket. Blurbs can help readers decide to take a chance and buy a book, even if they haven’t heard of the book’s author.  At least, that’s what publishers hope; so a fair amount of behind-the-scenes energy and strategizing goes into deciding which people to ask, how to approach them, etc. My editor asked me for a “wish list” of people I’d like to see endorse the book, and even though most of them were long shots, we sent out copies; and she responded.
We’re still working on getting other blurbs, of course, but for me, this one is more than enough — and I haven’t stopped being thrilled every time I read it.
  • Little things have been happening too, like pre-publication listings in Library News (which helps librarians figure out what books to order) as well online booksellers like Tower and Amazon (where you can even pre-order a copy!  same goes with your local independent bookstore).  By the way, for my fellow narcissists out there, Google Alerts is a great tool because instead of obsessively googling myself every day or hour, I can let Google do it for me, and get email notification whenever a new website has my name in it.  These listings make me appreciate what a vast machinery is in place to get books into the world, and how all kinds of people I’ll never meet have hand in getting my book out to readers. Hoorah for interdependence
  • The first readings have been set up, which is super-exciting!  Tentatively, I think I’ll be in New York and Washington DC in mid-March, and then come home for a reading at my awesome neighborhood bookstore, Booksmith on Haight Street, on March 26.  Then it’s down to Los Angeles for a gig at the L.A. Public Library.  Details to come…
  • We’ve been laying the groundwork for a publicity campaign, putting out the word to my friends and old journalism buddies as well as the media at large.  I’m working with a lovely and very smart publicity manager assigned to me by my publishing house, and despite all the horror stories one hears from authors about their publicists, so far so good for me!
  • I did my first magazine interview for the book last week, with a very patient reporter who put up with me being on codeine brain and talking verrrrry slowwwly. It’s interesting to be on the other side of the interview, trying to sum up many years of work in a few pithy yet authentic comments.  I think I’ll get better at it with practice. 
  • Having been a journalist for years, I don’t get too excited about just seeing my name in print, but seeing my baby’s, I mean my book’s, name in print is still exciting. So if you happen to be a reader of Buddhadharma magazine, you can see a teensy item on me in the Mahasangha News section in the back.  

  • So, that’s quite a bit…  It’s delightful that even as I’ve been at my most UNproductive, things continue to click along.  There is momentum, and my personal sweat-power is not as crucial at this moment to making it all happen … which is really very fabulous.