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 thoughts on “In Which It Becomes Real

  1. Patty Blount April 27, 2011 / 1:40 pm

    OMG, I can’t even imagine how great this is. Okay, I CAN imagine, but have no idea what it’s really like. So happy for you!

  2. Bryan Bliss April 27, 2011 / 1:43 pm

    How exciting. It makes me jealous. It makes me want to work harder.

  3. INTERN April 27, 2011 / 1:55 pm

    IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.

    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!

  4. Kate April 27, 2011 / 1:59 pm

    I’m in awe of how your nails match your (beautiful) cover. 🙂 Congrats!

  5. Laura April 27, 2011 / 3:18 pm

    I like that your nail polish matches the book!

  6. Carrie April 27, 2011 / 3:36 pm

    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?

  7. Brodi Ashton April 27, 2011 / 3:38 pm

    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!

  8. Sarah April 27, 2011 / 4:40 pm

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

  9. Kathryn Sheridan Kupanoff April 27, 2011 / 4:46 pm

    I love this post! 🙂 Very beautiful book. I LOVE the blue! How exciting for you! Congrats! 🙂

  10. dustus April 27, 2011 / 4:49 pm

    Congratulations!

  11. Lynne April 27, 2011 / 6:03 pm

    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.

    Congratulations!

  12. Jeanne Ryan April 27, 2011 / 7:51 pm

    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.

  13. Molly O'Neill April 27, 2011 / 7:59 pm

    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!

    • Molly O'Neill April 27, 2011 / 8:01 pm

      Other email address=wrong avatar. Sending this follow-up so we get to see the wind-up heartbreak dude! 🙂

  14. mari May 6, 2011 / 11:14 pm

    What a funny story and congratulations! I’m looking forward to reading it.

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