So this is me, back in 2016, just before my life took a left turn. I went to a Random House Open House, and, if you haven’t been, well, it’s something. Was so excited to be there my sister took a picture of me. Equally excited was the security guard, who was trying to stop us. Why, I don’t know. Didn’t notice his killjoy gesture until much later. Besides, we took loads and loads of pictures the whole day, and not one person tried to stop us. We were encouraged, actually.
The open house is this day-long event wherein visitors go to the Publishing House of the Gods and mingle with those whose books line their walls. Everyone who goes gets a ton of free books in a durable canvas tote bag, plus a few things like pens and memo pads, a not-yet-released book three weeks ahead of your visit – you’re going to meet the author and they want you to read it first, discussion panels with yet more authors as well as editors, marketers and the cover design team, and more. Plus, there’s breakfast, lunch and cocktails at the end of the full day.
Of course, there’s book signings too. In no particular order, I’ve had books signed by Justin Cronin, Questlove, Jodi Picoult, Curtis Sittenfeld, Pierce Brown and more. I’ve also participated in panel discussions with Trevor Noah, Diana Gabaldon and Jon Meacham. There’s more, but off the top of my head I can’t think of all the others I’ve seen. I’m sure you’d recognize their names if I mentioned them, though.
But part of the reason I went is as a writer, I needed to see what was possible. What could be. What a dream might be like if I gave it shape and form. I heard Pierce Brown say he was rejected 98 times before he became published. It took Justin Cronin ten years to write his smash hit, “The Passage” There was even a panel discussion of first-time authors, like Martha Hall Kelly, who wrote “The Lilac Girls.” She wasn’t young, but she knew she had a story to write and did. She told of being locked away in her office for hours on end, relentlessly writing her story, to the point where her husband brought her meals because she’d starve otherwise. It’s hard not to leave that place without feeling inspired.
One trip proved to be a pivotal point in my life. It was around my anniversary and I suggested my then-husband, an avid reader, to go with me. It was just the two of us. While he started off the day in a great mood, for reasons unknown he’d soured by the end of it. We were meeting a friend for dinner and although I knew where we were meeting, he cast doubt on the location and started a fight. Over dinner, he relentlessly made jabs and insults, to the point where our friend told him to stop. Angry and humiliated, I said nothing on the way home. We stopped off at a highway rest stop and he ran into his friends, not bothering to introduce me until I thrust forward the information I was his wife. At breakfast the following morning, he told me he started working on a book and pulled out some notes. I began to discuss my process with him in an effort to share. He turned angry, said I always had to lecture him about everything, and left the table.
Not long after, I discovered my husband was cheating on me with a much younger woman. I’ll skip over what the rest of that day looked like, but I can share this. He said to me, “You chose your writing over me.” It wasn’t true, but I suppose saying such a thing made him feel better. Then I thought about Martha Hall Kelly and how her caring husband supported her, even if it seemed she deserted him. To me, that’s what a loving spouse does. Obviously, that was something I lacked.
Six months later, my sister and I went to another Random House Open House. This time, things were completely different. We stayed at a friend’s gorgeous apartment, mingled with writers and those who love them, drank wine and had some good laughs. I was still on shaky ground emotionally, but going to Random House threw me a reminder about The Endgame.
Though it’s been several years since I’ve been there, really almost a lifetime ago, I’ve never forgotten the effect seeing what Random House has given me. I don’t have an MFA or a long list of bestsellers. I just have what’s in my computer and what I’ve sent off to my agent. I’m currently plotting the second book of a four-book series. She hasn’t gotten back to me yet, and that’s okay. I’m in a queue. One step closer to my own endgame.