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I’m just two weeks late in giving a wrap-up of my trip to New York City to be on a panel at Book Expo, but I’m operating under the idea that blog posts are not like organ transplants, and so it’s better late than never.

The panel was about how my publisher used Goodreads to market my book, increase sales, and get it on the New York Times bestseller list, which is definitely something writers fantasize about. (Not all of them, but many.) The write up is here, on Goodreads’ blog. It’s heavy on stats, and shows the long view of my publisher’s plans for my book release.

Because Goodreads was bringing me to NYC anyway, I got to do a kind of victory lap: meeting with my publisher in his corner office of the Flatiron Building, lunch with my editor, my publicist, and the Director of Marketing at St. Martin’s Press, stopping off at various bookstores to sign stock, meeting readers at Book Expo, and generally doing things that are incredibly exhausting to introverts like myself. Hence the caveat about things some writers fantasize about. My writerly fantasies usually focus on selling enough books to quit my day job, although I could definitely get used to having a driver to schlep me around.

While I was in NYC, I also got name-checked by The New Yorker in its snippish coverage of the new Amazon bookstore: Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores Are Not Built for People Who Actually Read. (With a headline like that, you can’t kid yourself that they’re impressed, but they did note that I’m one of only six authors in the G’s in Fiction.)

Over all, I had a lovely trip, even if I did come home and need to sleep and be alone for about three days solid.

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Well, I may have been number two on Goodreads, but the Book of the Month Club has declared All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Book of the Year! This is really amazing, because this is the first time in their 90-year history that they’ve awarded a Book of the Year. They even have an adorable name for the award: The Lolly. (Named after their first Book of the Month Club selection, Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Fun fact: fellow Kansas William Allen White was on that first panel of judges who selected Lolly Willowes for the Book of the Month Club.) The Book of the Year even got a write-up in Parade Magazine!

boty

To celebrate being Book of the Year, I’m going to be taking over the Book of the Month Club’s Twitter feed tomorrow, January 4th. It should be fun.

Also coming up is a live Q&A with me on Facebook. If you’ve read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and would like a chance to discuss it with other readers and ask questions of the author, that’s what we’ll be doing on Tuesday, January 17th, 7:30-9:30 pm (CST). For more information on the Q&A, just visit the official event page on Facebook.

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When I was in high school, I was in the marching band. Depending on the venue, I played either the baritone saxophone or the bass saxophone. All 5’5″ and 90 lbs. of me, so it was no easy feat. During my sophomore year, we traveled to an away game that would decide whether the football team went on to the state championships for our division.

During that game it rained, it sleeted, it snowed. The marching band performed valiantly, and the football team a little less so. We lost to a team whose quarterback would become my brother-in-law a few years later. By the time we loaded onto the bus for the long ride home, the marching band was mostly frozen into our uniforms. We were lucky they were heavy wool, because although we were all soaked and frozen, we were fairly warm sealed up inside that wet wool. I spent most of the ride home with the harness for the bass sax still attached, because my hair was frozen to it.

On the drive there, we’d done much cheering and chanting, but the ride home was more subdued. A well-meaning, but misguided cheerleader started up a familiar cheer. At the point in the cheer when the audience was supposed to respond with “We’re Number One!” I answered in my loudest, crowd-piercing voice: “We’re Number Two!” I got some glares, but the tired and frozen brass section behind me took up the chant. Honestly, we weren’t bitter. The team had made it further than anyone expected us to. There was no shame in having come in second.

atuawt-cover-w-goodreads-badgeThat’s how I feel this morning, upon being informed that All the Ugly and Wonderful Things received the second highest number of votes in the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction. 27,000 people voted my book! I got more votes than Jodi Picoult (mind=boggled).

So in honor of all the second place runners up, I am celebrating!

I’m Number Two!

And thank you to everybody who voted for me! If you’d like to celebrate with me, please consider leaving me a review on your preferred online venue. Reviews really do make a huge difference.

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Well, my people, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things has been loose in the world for ten days now. Now that I’ve got an evening to sit on the couch and pet dogs, I thought I’d do a little wrap up of my last two weeks. There were three TV appearances, two radio interviews, four interviews for other things, and four book signings!

Back when I worked for Planned Parenthood, I had to get up in front of people and talk all the time, but I’ve never been in the habit of discussing my own stuff, so it was a bit of a gantlet. For fun, here’s a little slideshow of my past two weeks.

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As for what’s coming up … well, I’ll be in San Diego for a day-long book club event at Mysterious Galaxy in October. (Have not yet worked out whether I’ll actually be doing just a reading/signing.)

I’m in Lawrence Magazine this month. And I’m on Bustle.com. Heck, look in your glove compartment. Maybe I’m in there, too. (If so, could you slip me some chocolate?)

Also I’m Skyping with book clubs! If you’re interested in having me chat with your book club, get more info here.

And at some point, when my head is spinning a little less, I’ll be buckling down to work on the next book.

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Despite some doubts along the way, it turns out that I really wrote this book, my amazing agent really took a chance on it, my incredible editor really bought it, and it’s really for sale today!

ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL

It’s for sale pretty much everywhere in North America: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, plus maybe even your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, they can order it for you.

Now, obviously, I love this book with all my heart, but you don’t have to take my word on whether it’s worth reading. Here are some of my reviews:

Kirkus Reviews called it a “powerful, provocative debut” and “Intelligent, honest, and unsentimental.”

Publishers Weekly says it’s “a memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love under the most improbable circumstances.”

Library Journal said the book is “so freakishly good and dangerous that it should come with a warning label.” I’m pretty sure they mean that in a good way.

The Associated Press calls it “captivating and smartly written from the first page … instantly absorbing.” But they also warn would-be readers that “This book won’t pull at heartstrings but instead yank out the entire organ and shake it about before lodging it back in an unfamiliar position.”

Tonight I’ll be having a book release party at the lovely Lawrence Public Library at 7:30 pm. (Co-hosted by The Raven Book Store.) If you’re in the area, come on out!

Tomorrow night, I’ll be at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. If you’re long distance and want to purchase a signed copy, you can order one through them.

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First order of business: announcing the winners of my book and book swag giveaway. Congratulations to Sue S. and Evann A.! Check your email for information about claiming your prizes.

Second order of business: quietly freak out that it’s only 5 weeks until All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is loose in the wild. Today, at least, I’m opting to quietly freak out. We’ll see if I can continue that level of calm as the day approaches.

I have finalized four events that I’ll be doing in the two weeks after the release. If you’re in or near Kansas, these are the places you can come to watch this introvert try to pass herself off as a professional writer. Try not to laugh too loudly and I’ll try not to be too drunk.

August 9, 2016

Official release day for All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Hosted by The Raven Book Store, the event will be held at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. August 9, 2016, 7:00 pm.

August 10, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. August, 10, 2016, 6:30 pm. For more information, visit Rainy Day’s event page.

August 15, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Bluebird Books in Hutchinson, Kansas. August 15, 2016, 6:00 pm.

August 16, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas. August 16, 2016, 6:00 pm.

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We’re now less than three months away from the official release date of my novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things! August 9th has gone from seeming impossibly far away to terrifyingly soon. Three months away, but twenty years in the making.

True story: When I was about 35, around the time I’d been writing and trying to get published for nearly a decade, I made myself a promise. It was one of those weird, desperate vows that you mostly can’t share with people until either the goal has come to fruition or you’re ready to laugh at past you for making such a crazy oath.

I’d just received yet another rejection on yet another novel, and I thought, “Why am I doing this? Is there any value to me continuing to write? What’s the meaning of life?” If you’ve stared down a form rejection for your third novel while in the middle of writing your fourth novel, you know what kind of existential crisis I’m talking about.

Rather than sink into a depression and quit writing, I said, “If I’m not a published writer by the time I’m 45, I’m going to give it all up and do something meaningful with my life.” Having made such a promise, I felt like I was making a contract with myself, and in true contractual fashion, I had to define what all the terms meant.

I’d already had some short stories published, but I decided that for the purposes of this oath, becoming a “published writer” would require me to have a novel published by one of the big New York publishing houses.

And what would “giving it all up” mean? For the purposes of my promise, I decided that “it” was my comfy, safe life. If I hadn’t published a book by age 45, I would sell my house and quit my day job.

As for “do something meaningful,” that was about as amorphous as “published writer.” After a few days’ consideration, I concluded that something meaningful would require me to commit myself to a greater good, such as joining the Peace Corps or taking a position with a non-profit aid agency that was on the ground, making a difference in people’s lives.

I’ve always said that I work best under deadline, but I’m notorious for cutting it close. This completely ridiculous promise to myself is no different. People, I’m literally coming within three days of having to quit my job, sell my home, and set out upon the road to do good works like some befuddled Midwestern introvert Grasshopper. Close call!

The_wellIt’s not that I’ve given up on doing something meaningful with my life, but I’ll continue to try to do it closer to home, and I’ll keep writing. Now, if I hadn’t made this completely arbitrary deadline, would I have really abandoned life as I know it to travel to a developing nation and dig wells? I don’t know. I’ve done stranger things.

What about you? What is the strangest promise you’ve made yourself? Did you keep it? Best answer wins an advance copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

As I continue the countdown to release day, my publisher is also giving away more copies. This is a HUGE giveaway on Goodreads: 50 copies! And it doesn’t require you to give me a little piece of your soul like my giveaway. (But I’m only asking for a tiny piece. Very small. You’ll hardly miss it.)

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