Thursday, June 9, 2016

About Being #1 On The New York Times Bestseller List

Wow. Fun day here at the Bradley house. 2016 is turning out to be a pretty fine year, and June an excellent month. My son is working in the business office of a professional sports team--his dream internship--my daughter is preparing to start at her first-choice college, my husband is restoring sight to the blind with his customary skill and kindness--and the paperback edition of The War That Saved My Life just debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Also I've been writing well, the Little Free Library at Bristol Faith in Action is soaring, the sun's shining, the dog hasn't peed inside the house so far today, and a girl I very much like is coming to ride my elderly horse whom I adore. I'm not sure days get better than this.

#1 on the NYT Bestseller List. The War That Saved My Life. (It's the June 19th list, not the one coming out this Sunday.)

I don't even know how to write about it. My sister asked me last night (after expressing her joy): what do you get for that? I told her, 1) they will frame a copy of the list and the cover of my book, and hang them in the conference room at my publisher's offices [this is true] and 2), for the rest of my life, they'll type "#1 NYT bestselling author" before or after my name. I offered her the following example, via text: "The #1 NYT bestselling author is contemplating another glass of wine." She wrote back: "The #1 NYT bestselling author's sister is dying." along with some hysterical-laughter emojis.

The #1 NYT Bestselling Author knows that an enormous number of things in publishing, including how well her books sell and whether or not they win awards, is way outside her control. The #1 NYTBA understands that having a book published will not make you smarter, thinner, or less likely to commit embarrassing social gaffes, such as introducing yourself to someone you've already met twice. Nothing about writing a well-received book will make your hair smoother, more elegant, or less grey (though you can still fix that). Nothing about starred reviews turns you into a nicer, taller, les- annoying person. It doesn't make your pets behave better, your pants fit better, or your laundry magically do itself. It won't fix your relationships. It won't prevent you from failing next time.

On the other hand--this is the good part--writing a badly-received book won't consign you to a life of misery. It won't make your children into jackasses, your husband any less loving, your sweet princess self less charming or deserving of good things. It's a small little part of your life, whether your books sell. Whether you can make art that's meaningful. You can always try again.

Last week I listened to a podcast from New Zealand that was two adults discussing my book. They kept praising it more than they meant to. "Well, I'm not sure a child would love this--I mean I couldn't put it down, but I wasn't sure why-" At one point they moaned about the fact that the story includes a pony, so trite, then said "A pony named Bu-ttarh, oh he's perfect, I loved him." They said that the spy story was completely utterly unnecessary "but of course children will love it, it's straight out of Enid Blyton, and obviously an homage to Noel Streatfield--" It went on like that and I loved it.

I wrote a book children want to read. I created characters children care about.

I was the kid staying up all hours to read the adventures of Pauline, Posy, and Petrova. I can recite lines still from the novels I read over and over again. I love books. I live surrounded by books. Now I create books. It's the best damn thing in the world.

Being on a Bestseller List is awesome, here's why: there are children like me finding out that there are children like them. We connect through books. Hallelujah.