I Did It, and So Can You...
And by "it" I mean anything. (Plus: A workshop I'm offering. And links for buying my book and attending events.)
Yesterday, for the first time, I read publicly from And You May Find Yourself…, and it was exhilarating. Drew Broussard, who hosts The Golden Notebook’s “Tinker Street Social” reading series at Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery in Bearsville invited me to read with wonderful poets Lynn Xu and Josh Edwards, and it was great.
Afterward I sat outside and had ice cream with my dear friends Hope and Sean, whom I hadn’t seen much since lockdown began in March, 2020. These are friends who know me well, who are familiar with what a struggle it’s been for me to push through publishing’s many hurdles, not to mention my own considerable mishegoss around writing and publishing memoir.
Hope asked, “What’s it like to finally be on the other side of this, with your book completed, and about to be published?” It was a good question, a question I needed to be asked, because it shifted my mind away from book-related anxieties that had been dogging me and keeping me from taking stock of this important moment.
The past week, instead of stopping to acknowledge that I DID IT, I FINALLY DID IT, I’d been freaking out, thinking about all the material I’d failed to include, either because I forgot, or because ultimately I had to narrow things down—to select the stories that were most in keeping with my theme and arc, and forego others. (That and obsessing over the few typos that somehow got past me, a copy-editor, and a proof-reader.)
In preparation for two events in the city I have a long to-do list, but somehow I was wasting precious hours poring over the storyboard I’d made some time in mid-2020 to use as a guideline, along with journals dating back thirty years.
Over and over I thought, Oh shit, I didn’t cover this, or that. For example, there’s a journal entry about the period in the 90s during which, to a one, every guy I dated wasn’t yet over a different ex-girlfriend named “Jennifer.” When I learned about a thriller called Jennifer 8, I mused, “It must be a horror flick about my love life.” There’s another entry from 2002 in which I recount being absorbed by an obnoxious memoir called Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, really studying it for clues as to how to…win over complete jerks, all the while making fun of myself for doing that.
Actually, rereading my journals wasn’t a complete waste of time. It was interesting for me to notice how self-aware I was in those days, despite seeming unable to get out of my own way. I mean, for a long time, I really couldn’t get out of my own way, in terms of my relationships with men. (Hey, I’m a cishetero monogamous woman raised in a culture that taught me to seek validation and acceptance from the people with the most power, aka cishetero men, and to strive for what was hard to get.) As I write in a chapter called The Re-Education of the Needless Wonder:
“I was one of those young women—you know the kind—who seemed to have a fair amount going for her—smart, hard-working, engaging, a thinking-man’s idea of attractive—who inexplicably wasted her time dating jerks who didn’t have half as much on the ball. Two different boyfriends’ mothers separately took me aside to ask why I was wasting my precious time on their messed up sons.”
It was also worthwhile noticing that even though it took me a long time, eventually I broke out of that bad pattern. It’s not unlike my loooooong struggle to overcome my fears about writing and publishing very personal work. In both cases, there were significant periods during which I couldn’t imagine getting to the other side. And look at that: In the end, I did!
To answer Hope’s question, being on the other side of this feels fucking amazing. It makes me optimistic that with determination, bravery, and focused effort, I can push past my fears and conditioning and get to the other side of just about any endeavor that scares me.
And if I can do it, so can you.
If you think you can’t, I’m here to help you. Check out the new remote workshop I’m offering July 13th and 20th, through Kingston Writers’ Studio:
If you’re sitting on some personal writing that scares you, consider applying!
I’ll be offering more workshops soon, through both Kingston Writers’ Studio and Catapult. Stay tuned…
So…have I mentioned that my book is available for purchase online?! And as of Tuesday, it will physically be in some bookstores.
Publisher’s Weekly liked it: “Former Longreads editor Sari Botton debuts with an introspective collection of essays about the joys and pains of feeling like a misfit...Now in her mid-50s, Botton recalls in heartfelt and witty prose the pivotal moments that have shaped her...The result offers a cathartic look at an imperfect life lived fully.”
I’d be so grateful if you’d order it—through Bookshop, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound, or through your independent bookseller! You can also order a signed copy from Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston (to pick up or have mailed to you!).
Below are links to readings and other events for the book:
June 26th, 5pm In conversation with Chloe Caldwell, author of the newly released memoir, The Red Zone: A Love Story, at Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston, NY.
I’d love to see you at one of these!