confessions / fantasies / memories / novels / reading

Your Particular Dream

A couple weeks ago, I was in Laramie, Wyoming, at the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers, learning about planets (!) and stars (!) and black holes (!) and the math (?##@???) astronomers use to measure how far away galaxies are from ours and being astounded by the infinite expanse of the universe (!!!)—and this knowledge will be used for a novel, so stay tuned for that. And I was on my way home. And I was in the Denver airport, rushing to buy something edible to eat on the plane ride because I hadn’t eaten breakfast and my flight had already started boarding, when I happened to see a bookstore near the gate. And inside that little airport bookstore I happened to see something that stopped me in my tracks.

My book. The paperback edition of Imaginary Girls. On display. IN A FREAKING AIRPORT.

Had to snap this photo, even though boarding for my flight had already started!

That was a first.

Loudly I said, “Oh. My. God.” And startled a man in the aisle with me. And snapped a photo. And then bought some honey cashews and crackers and dashed off to catch my flight.

I never thought I’d see a book I wrote in an airport. And I don’t mean that’s the pinnacle of success to me, or some piece of the dream I never thought would come true. That wasn’t ever a part of my particular dream when I knew I wanted to grow up to be a writer.

I had a simple dream—and it comes direct from when I was a kid. All I wanted was to see my book in a library.

I lived for libraries when I was a kid. They’re a big reason I’m a writer today.

I know, somewhere on this blog where I can’t seem to find now, I revealed my shameful former habit whenever I’d go into a library, all through the years as I started writing my own fiction. I’d lurk by the Fiction shelves, starting mid-alphabet and sort of idly wandering down and down, the letters on the book spines lowering as I went. Sure, I’d be looking for books to check out and feed my reading habit, but I had an ulterior motive, too. One I had to do in secret, with no one looking. I’d reach the S shelves. I’d scan the books carefully until I came to it. My spot.

SU.

I so longed to be shelved somewhere in there one day.

I’d stand at my spot—and this shelf, in various libraries, could be on the very bottom of the stack, or in the indiscriminate middle, even at the end of a wall, near the fire exit. It varied. I’d stand wherever it was and I’d imagine it.

My spine, like a part of my body, wedged in there where I belonged.

(See how shameful this is! See? But I’m not done yet.)

Then I’d do it. I had to do it. I always did it.

I’d slip my finger in… and I’d make room for my future book. I’d leave the SU shelf with it waiting for me: a gap just wide enough for the novel I’d one day publish to fit inside.

(I’m blushing as I type this.)

I did this in every library I went to—in Woodstock, in Yellow Springs, in Boston, in Manhattan, various branches all across the city—for YEARS.

And yes, I did this in the adult Fiction section, never realizing my future gap would actually be on the YA shelves, but it doesn’t matter. It was just the idea of being in a library, the place where I fell in love with reading. That was my dream.

And can you believe it? I see my book in libraries all the time now. I don’t have to leave a gap to fill one unknown day in the future. I’ve filled it:

Can you find my spine at the Hudson Park Branch of the NYPL? Hint: Look for the turquoise.

And here is IMAGINARY GIRLS shelved at the Jefferson Market Branch of the NYPL! (My home branch.)

Seeing my book in a libary was my particular dream when I imagined one day becoming a published author. What’s yours?

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15 thoughts on “Your Particular Dream

    • I was wondering who would be the first to notice how maddeningly out of order that library shelf was yesterday! Still didn’t dampen the excitement though :)

  1. Nova, that is so, so beautiful. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine and I went to the library all the time, but I don’t remember ever making that connection. I love how you put it out there, making a place for yourself on the shelf. My fiction prof used to say that, although he didn’t mean it quite so literally. :}

  2. This is great! You were just setting forth your intentions for the future – and look where you are now! :-) Thanks for sharing.

    My dream is for a random girl or woman to approach me somewhere random and say, “I absolutely LOVED your book! I’ve told all my friends about you…”

  3. Thank you for sharing that dream with us. I really enjoyed it. Now, I want to go to my town library and look for my author friends’ books on the shelves. One of my friends really believes in the power of envisioning goals. Sort of an “If you build it, they will come” type of vision.

    My personal dream is to find myself in a waiting room-type place (for some reason, a jury pool always comes to mind) and I’ll find someone in the crowd reading my book.

  4. Thanks, Nova, for sharing. I thought I was the only person who did this–slip my fingers between books on a shelf to make room for my future as yet unpublished one(s)! Seeing my actual book in libraries and bookstores (I wasn’t even thinking of airports) next year (!!!!) will probably be kind of surreal. I heard a talk by Louis Sachar after HOLES came out. He said he’d done a school visit at some middle school and at the end of the day the kids came up to him and gave him a shovel. They all signed it and said what a difference his book made in their lives. He was choked up telling the story and I was almost crying listening to him. That’s MY particular dream, I guess, to have a book of mine affect teen readers like that.

  5. You’re post made me tear up a little bit. I’m a school librarian. As I was getting ready for the first day of school (Today) I stopped at COU on my shelves, dreaming of my book wedged in between Cassandra Clare and Andrea Cremer (how awesome would that be). I get a little thrill when I see those initials on another book (even if it’s not me).

  6. My dream is simple – to have a stranger pay money for a novel I’ve written. Old hat to some people, I know, but I still get a little choked up just imagining how that will feel.

  7. I’ve never left a space, but I’ve frequently found the space and even shown it to friends and family members I was at the library with where my book will go. My personal dream is to see someone reading my book on the subway or metro.

  8. I love the fact that Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch is right above your Imaginary Girls. Two of my favorite books by two of my favorite writers.

    My dream would to sign a copy of a novel I’d written for a fan who truly enjoyed it. Although, I’d probably sneak into the library and sign the copy there too.

  9. Mine still is that – seeing my book on a library shelf. Not a bookshop shelf (although that would be awesome, too), but always a library shelf. I work at one, so I like to see the two books that will ONE DAY sandwich my book in. :)

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