The First Time

When you start out on any road of endeavour and achievement, there are milestones on your way.

Holding your first book in your hand when the box of author’s copies is deposited at your front door – it’s a BOOK, it’s a real book, it smells like one, it has a satisfying weight to it and a pretty cover (well, all covers look pretty when you’re holding your first book in your hands) and there’s these WORDS inside… and you recognise them… and they all came from somewhere within you at some point… and your head spins, and your mind implodes, and you’re reduced to squeeing loudly and dancing with the book held in your hands and showing it to everybody you see (even if they’ve been with you all the way and have seen this beast in all its in-between stages a dozen times before), “Look! Look! It’s a BOOK!”

You wonder whether it will stay that way for the next one, and the one after that – and although you might express your joy in a quieter and more restrained manner the squee is still there inside you, will always be, every box holding new books, new children of your spirit, is Christmas morning and you are five all over again.

For those of you who were wondering – no, it doesn’t go away. There’s something to celebrate with every book. And you can’t help dancing, even if (by book three or four or later) you remove the dancing from the hallways of your home and keep it hidden and treasured deep inside your heart.

I’ve recently celebrated, with such a quiet dance, the publication of my seventh novel, my tenth book. Another child of my spirit, released into the world. And I took the first shining copies out of their box, and hugged them, and whispered loving words to them, and wished them well.

There are many variants of that First Time feeling. Your first book, your first hardcover, your first mass market paperback, your first great review, your first award nomination (never MIND your first win), the first time you open your mouth in response to a question from a stranger about what you do and what comes out (and is the truth) is “I am a novelist”.  The first time you are invited to speak to an audience about what you do, and you realise that there are PEOPLE OUT THERE TAKING NOTES. The first time someone reacts to your name with a startled look and then a great smile and then names something you’ve written – often from years before – and tells you that they LOVE that book.

I was recently the Guest of Honor at a semi-local (i.e. in the same state) science fiction convention – and there was MYnew first. I had never done this before. I was excited, but nervous, and I asked a couple of friends who had done this sort of gig before about what would be expected from me. “Smile,” they said. “Just… be yourself. And be there. And talk to people. And just be accessible. And don’t forget to have fun.”

So I did. And I had a wonderful time. I would like to look forward to a possibility of doing it again, somewhere, sometime.

But  that experience was just another first that comes with this territory, if you’re lucky enough to be invited down the path which carries the GoH signpost. Writers might enjoy the experience – but it is not something that anyone becomes a writer in order to pursue. It’s just a different kind of dance, a different kind of joy in accomplishment – a pause on the writerly road.  It’s one I’ll always remember, because it was a first.

But some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, there will be another box of books left at the front door. And I’ll open it and hug another child of my mind and close my eyes and breathe a blessing on it.

And it will like the first time, all over again.

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There are 2 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. cindy

    so well put. i just had the happy dance of holding my beautiful debut in my hands. utterly surreal and absolutely exhilarating. congratulations to you, alma!

  2. 2. Margaret Y.

    This post made my day. I hope every book is special!

Author Information

Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander is a novelist, short story writer and anthologist whose books include High Fantasy ("Hidden Quen""Changer of Days"), historical fantasy ("Secrets of Jin Shei", "Embers of Heaven"), contemporary fantasy ("Midnight at Spanish gardens") and YA (the Worldweavers series, the Were Chronicles). She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two cats. Visit site.

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