Not “She needs medication” kinds of voices. Other voices. They’re not always pleasant, but I hear them loud and clear:
Essays don’t sell.
Mom-humor is overdone.
You need more followers.
The voices come from the publishing industry, and were the most common responses I received while pitching my book I Love You. Now Go Away: Confessions of a Woman with a Smartphone, a memoir in serial essays written on my phone. I’d spent a couple of years hunched over a four-inch screen, furiously tapping out tens of thousands of words on a wee-tiny keypad, only to be continually turned away by publishing executives — those who bothered to respond — with the no essays/followers/mom-humor assertions.
Such comments perplexed me. I mean, I could understand being dismissed based on a lack of followers — I am admittedly Twitter-averse. But “mom humor is overdone”? What about the hundreds of successful mom blogs and record-breaking EBWW sell-outs? Essays don’t sell? What about David Sedaris and Dave Barry?
What about Erma?
Still, after a year of querying, the rejections wore me down. When my phone contract ran out, I switched handsets, stuffed the one with my book file in a drawer, and tried to forget about it.
But that didn’t go so well. You see, I began to hear other voices, those of successful authors, the “Ermies” I call them, most of whom I’d met at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.
I heard Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, saying that fear is the thing that stops us.
I heard Kathy Kinney telling us to work — don’t wait — and create our own opportunities.
I definitely heard Wanda Argersinger, every other day when she emailed me to ask, “Exactly where the hell is your book?”
There were many more — Tracy Beckerman, Jerry Zezima, Robin O’Bryant, to name a few — and though the words came from dozens of different EBWW writers, they all said basically the same thing: 1) Keep trying 2) Don’t be afraid, and 3) Get off your a** and publish that book.
I’ll tell you — the Ermies were loud. I couldn’t shut them up. Especially Wanda.
So a few months ago, I gave in. I pulled the old smartphone out of the drawer, transferred the files to my new phone, and spent the latter part of 2016 editing, polishing and publishing I Love You. Now Go Away. I hired a copy editor and a cover designer so I could choose my own cover.
As you can imagine, all of this was expensive, a bit frustrating, and extremely time-consuming. It was also totally worth it. Dreams don’t belong in a drawer.
I published my book on Dec. 29, and it’s doing just fine. It will never be a New York Times’ bestseller. But you know what? That’s OK. I get comments, emails and even some “Thanks!” for it every day, because it’s making people laugh, which was my goal — my only real goal — in the first place.
Sometimes, I still hear the big-shot publishing authorities in my head.
Luckily, I don’t listen much to authority. Ask my high school principal.
I also don’t always listen to my head. Ask anyone.
But I listened to the Ermies. I listened to my heart.
And I got off my butt and published that book.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” — Erma Bombeck
— Dawn Weber
Dawn Weber is a national award-winning humor columnist, Huffington Post contributor and author whose work has been published in six books, including her new book, I Love You. Now Go Away: Confessions of a Woman with a Smartphone. She blogs at lightenupweber.blogspot.com, and her Lighten Up! column was a favorite in the Buckeye Lake Beacon, where she’s been called the local love child of Dave Barry and Nora Ephron. Dawn resides in Brownsville, Ohio (motto: Indoor Plumbing Optional) with her husband, kids and freakishly enthusiastic dog, Suzie the Meth Lab. Her goals include thinner thighs, a nap, maybe a solo trip to Target.