In Which It Becomes Real

Do you need to see something in person—touch it, hold it in your hands and feel its weight—to believe it is in fact a real and actual thing? Sometimes I think I do. With the good things. Especially with those.

So, though I’ve known Imaginary Girls—a novel I first began as a short story about sisters in 2006—was going to be published as a book, I’ve kept my full belief in bay until, you know, it was undeniable. The undeniable happened on Monday morning when a messenger found me in the street—he was having trouble reaching me on the buzzer—while I was lugging an enormous bright red sack of dirty laundry out of my building and down the sidewalk to the drop-off cleaner’s on my block.

“You might be the person I’m looking for,” this random man called out to me as I dragged the giant red sack onto the sidewalk.

My first reaction was, obviously, LEAVE ME ALONE, PSYCHO, as I’ve been living in New York City for many years. But I did turn and I saw he had a clipboard. At this point, I might have started walking faster, assuming he was trying to sell me something, or ask me if I’m a registered Democrat, but that bag of laundry sure was heavy and I couldn’t move too fast, and besides he seemed nice enough. He recited my address and said, “Are you Nova Ren Suma?”

Now he had my attention. I turned and he produced a package. I signed and then there—on the street, my dirty laundry at my feet—I opened it and saw this for the first time:

I held it out, there on my block with the Empire State Building’s spire visible in the far distance, and let it sink in that I was holding my book in my hands.

My book was A BOOK.

Yes! That photo is a finished copy of the hardcover of Imaginary Girls! This is my one and only advance from the warehouse until the June 14 pub date, and I can’t believe how beautiful it is in person.

More photos can be found in this album—showing the front and back flaps, the back, and a couple pages inside.

After reading my ecstatic email that morning saying I’d seen the book and how thrilled I was, my agent asked me if I believed if it was real yet? He knows me well, how cautious I’ve been with truly believing. When he asked that, I realized… I did. I do. For the first time, this week, I believe it.

I’d love to poll authors on when their books became “real”—was it when they saw the cover for the first time, or signed a contract, or got their first edit letter, or got the ARC, or held the finished copy in their hands like me—or was it only when they saw it on the shelves of a store or library? When is your reality moment? Ever?

Also, I wonder… what will it be like when books are only published digitally? If you can’t hold an ebook in your hands is it still “real”? (Well, as a new enthusiastic adopter of an ereader, I would say so… but will it still feel the same?)

Thank you, Dutton Books and the incredible designers at Penguin who produced such a beautiful book for me. I’m humbled.

…And I believe in you now. Thank you for making it real!

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17 responses to “In Which It Becomes Real”


    INTERN is exactly the same way when it comes to holding excitement at bay—she’ll glare and say “well, nothing’s for SURE yet” if anyone tries to congratulate her on book-related stuff until the book is literally sitting on the shelf at the bookstore.

    congratulations on your book becoming real!


  2. Congratulations. That is so exciting. Also can I just say how awesome it is that your nail polish coordinates so well with the cover in the last picture?


  3. So pretty!

    I’m still waiting for the moment when it will feel real. It hasn’t come with an agent, a contract, revisions or a sneak peek at the cover. Maybe ARCs?

    Congratulations, Nova!


  4. YAY! How exciting! I’ve also been pondering this lately – when it becomes real. I’m guessing it’s different for every author.


  5. Ooh, it’s gorgeous! What a thrill that must have been to open the box and hold your real live book. Are you looking at it constantly? I would be.



  6. It’s absolutely lovely! Congrats!

    Given that my first editorial letter isn’t due for another month or so, I’m a long way from my book feeling real. I think a finished hardcopy would do the trick.


  7. Ahhh, remember when it was just a glimmer that we used to talk about over lunch, two summers ago? Congrats on getting from to the oh-so-wondrous here-and-now through amazing amounts of determination and hard work. So proud of you, Nova. So *happy* for you!


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