For anyone in the Western Hemisphere (and perhaps other hemispheres as well) who has not gotten an invitation to a book reading, a flyer, or an e-mail, here's the news: I have just published a book (The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression, HarperCollins). This is usually the time when a writer starts to put on airs. For one thing, it's the ultimate trump card when it comes to mundane household duties. "I'm sorry, I can't pick up the kids today," I can tell my husband. "I have this interview scheduled for my book." Or, motioning the kids to get away from the phone, I can mouth the word, "BOOK" and they may, for a few seconds, leave me alone. "I'll do the grocery shopping when I'm done doing this book publicity stuff," I'll cheerfully announce to anyone within earshot, and this person, who is my husband, will know that "when I'm done" translates to "never" and he will schlepp off to Safeway himself.
But this little item from The Shanghai Daily (yes, I get around) I think has cured me forever of my hourly habit of checking my Amazon sales ranking: "Within six months, Guo Ni has published six books - romance novels for teens and young women. People were amazed at her writing speed and prolific work. Her publisher, the 21st Century Publishing House, claimed Guo had sold out 2.05 million volumes of her books since February - the sales surpassed 50 million yuan." (That would be $6.17 million in U.S. dollars. This person makes J.K. Rowling look like a mid-lister.)
"In an age that adores quick success," the article continues, "it is not unusual to have writers like Guo around." WHAT? Okay, I can stand one prolific writer I've never heard of who makes a gazillion dollars (or the Chinese equivalent). But more? What about my dreams, guys? Does this mean that even if I make the front page of the New York Times Book Review, there may be a couple billion people who will have never heard of me? How can this BE?
Masochistically, I plowed on: "When Guo grows older, she could easily be replaced like a pop star - because more idol-like newcomers will appear."
(sound of quiet sobbing, made by me)
Finally, at the end of the article, a teensy ray of hope: "Writing, unlike singing pop songs, should be an occupation emphasizing hard work, life experience and intuition."
Damn straight. You can't just crank 'em out like that, Guo. There's a lotta hard livin' you gotta do before you write a book, a lot of good times and bad times to soak up, a lot of hard-won wisdom to accumulate, a lotta good whiskey and bad livin'. I don't care if you are rolling in so much dough you could flush a few thou down the crapper and not miss it--because I, Guo, unlike you, have suffered for my art.
Now, dear readers, it's your turn.