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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