Seven years ago, give or take, Isabel took aim at Baltimore. Now it’s Irene. I’m leaving town, but only because I have an event in Pittsburgh that is beautifully timed — I’ll head out before the storm arrives, I’ll return after it’s over. Fingers crossed, the forecasters are right about the timing, but wrong about the storm’s potential for destruction along the Eastern seaboard.
These two “I” storms provide a nice moment for reflection — on the week, on the last seven years, on the ten years since this website launched. I’ve had a decent publication week, two events, six interviews. (It would have been seven, but the earthquake forced Bill Thompson to cancel.) As noted yesterday, I’ve received lots of review coverage, which is increasingly rare for writers.
In the final interview, for the Washington Post Magazine, I was asked when I considered myself a success. My impulse, which I choked down, was to say I didn’t consider myself a success. It’s true, but it would have sounded disingenuous. We have a saying in our house: No one lives inside his success. Whatever you’ve achieved in your career, it’s external, not really part of one’s identity or daily life. It doesn’t protect you from anything or cushion many blows. That’s why the three shelves above my desk, the ones filled with my books, are also littered with family photos and personal mementoes.
But . . . I left The Sunten years ago this fall to write full-time. So I would have to say that was the moment I considered myself a success. I was a novelist, I paid my bills by writing fiction. It was all I ever wanted.
It still is. I don’t take it for granted. I hope I never do. Asked about the best part of my life, I was much quicker off the mark: I’m the best boss I’ve ever had. And I’ve had terrific bosses.
Today, the final day of drawings, I am offering a two-fer: a T-shirt that says, “Be careful or I’ll put you in my novel” — and the chance to be in a novel. Maybe mine, but maybe someone else’s, someone better!
Finally, what did this week have to do with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Well, Cheapskate Charlie has a little promotion, in which kids buying a penny’s worth of candy can pick a number for one of fifty prizes hanging on a board and decide whether to take the candy or the prize. There are some fabulous prizes on the board, but no one ever gets them. The game, as Frannie learns late in the book, has always been rigged. Not this one. There will be five winners. (However, no one can win twice.) Be patient with me in terms of shipping; it’s not my strong suit and I am traveling a lot. But know that I am very grateful to the readers who allowed me to walk out of The Sun ten years ago. Pizza, presents, even robots can’t repay you all.