You sit down to write a novel, and soon the characters are crowding around demanding attention with the urgency and self-obsession of 3-year-olds.
A few weeks in, and you can no longer shake them. In fact, nothing shuts them up until the manuscript is ripped from your hands on deadline, when you go from total control to utter powerlessness with one click of the Send button.
Goodbye! Good luck!
After that comes the weird silence of the empty nest, with its combination of freedom and loneliness. The joy and relief are offset by the fear of a mean and indifferent world mistreating your defenseless characters. You realize how much you love all of them -- even the bullies and brats, and there's nothing you can do but hope the world will understand and love them too.
The first word that they've arrived safely in the outside world comes with the reviews. Then your friends start reporting sightings of your babies all dressed up in their new covers, snug and comfy on bookstore shelves.
If you're a first-timer, you continually check your Amazon rating and duck in and out of bookstores. You ricochet between elation and devastation, relief and panic. But that's largely a financial issue.
You don't really hear from your characters until readers write to tell you they've spent time with them and that they are still alive on the page.
Fan mail is your "Hi, Ma! We're OK!" And it is wonderful. Even the urgent e-mail begging for a plot summary to help with a book report due in the morning is better than nothing.
Then the sad day comes when you get the "R" letter. The one saying, in essence: We're sorry to inform you that sales stink and we have to remainder your book. That is how the publisher announces his intention to stand your characters at the edge of a ditch, blindfold them and have a firing squad of sales execs and bookkeepers gun them down.
The horror of the "R" letter is mitigated by only one thought: Your babies are safe at the library! Were it not for libraries, there would be no safe harbor for characters and stories, nowhere for them to wait out disasters and economic storms. And were it not for librarians, there would be no one to introduce your characters to new children as the older ones grow up and move on.
And for this, I want to thank librarians, for the work they do and for the many, many lives they save.