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My space on the shelf

I’ve been having a lot of problems seeing myself as a real author.

Sure, I’ve been writing for years now but that means I’m a writer. I write blog posts, short pieces of poetry that I try not to share with people, editorial letters, e-mails, text messages, tweets. I write books, re-write them, put them on a shelf, then work on them some more.

Being an author, though. I have a book coming out in two months and I’m not sure I even understand what the word author means. For me, authors are mythical creatures on the bookshelf at Barnes & Noble. Theirs are the books getting instagrammed, getting talked about in review blogs, getting fan art. Authors have a set writing schedule, spend all their free money on workshops and classes and conferences I’ve only dreamed about going. They have agents, they have book deals from big-named publishers.

They aren’t me.

Or are they?

I spend a lot of time editing, a lot of time honing my craft through helping others work on theirs. I spend a lot of free time and what money I have been allotting to book buying has been on writing craft, or fiction I truly believe will help me develop my craft further. I’m serious about my writing even if I don’t have a regular writing routine or the close-knit writer’s group of my dreams. Again, all attributes of the writer–but also of the author, too.

Merriam-Webster defines author as follows:

1. One that originates or creates.

2. The writer of a literary work (as a book)

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As I sat there last night, listening to amazing women talk about their writing, I knew they were authors, and not just because one of them has a book coming out soon. I knew that they embodied the definition of author. But then the conversation turned to me, and not just about my job as an editor. They wanted to know about my writing, about my books coming out. They wanted me to find the space where my book would be once it finds its forever home on the Barnes & Noble shelf.

So that’s what we did.

We took turns, starting in the Middle Grade section and then the YA section where I saw so many familiar names and was overwhelmed with immense pride. Some of the authors names I saw last night I could remember when they landed their agent and announced their book deal. Now I could get their book in a chain bookstore in suburban Buffalo. It was surreal.

When we finally got to the adult literature section, I scanned through until I found Anna Karenina. Tolstoy. My book would be close to this, close to a classic. Sitting on the same shelf as one of the Greats. My book could be on this very bookshelf in just a few months.

That’s when it all became real for me. It wasn’t just something I dreamed about when I over-book myself with clients. Not just something that I watch my friends go off and do. They aren’t leaving me behind but just waiting for me to catch up. They’re waiting to go to the last row of the adult literature section, to the third shelf down, to scan their fingers across the covers of books until they reach mine.

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And this is where they’ll find me. One day. This is where Lake Effect and Without Benefits will be (hopefully!) by next summer. Sure, I might be lucky enough to be a new release spotlight but this is where my forever home will be.

This is the spot that made me feel like a real author. I’m not a fraud, I’m not an imposter. I’m not just faking this until I make it.

This is real. When I close my eyes, I can see my book there. Maybe it won’t get into Barnes and Noble, but it’ll be out there on someone’s alphabetized bookshelf. It’ll be dog-eared and highlighted on someone’s bedside table, in their bag, on their lap during a plane ride. My words will be part of someone’s life, someone’s story.

Who knows. Maybe my book, the book that could be on this very shelf in a few months, could be the inspiration for someone else to go out and find their book spot.

That’s my challenge to you, writing friends. Go to your local bookstore and find your book spot. Tweet it with the hashtag #ThisIsMyBookSpot so we can follow you and retweet you. So we can support you on your own journey of understanding of what being an author means to you, and support you as you work on making your dreams come true.

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