Friday, October 22, 2010

The More Things Change

Paranormalcy has been out for just under two months now.  Four phenomenal authors loved it enough to blurb it.  It got great reviews from Kirkus and SLJ and a starred review from Publisher's Weekly.  It's either for sale or will be in eleven other languages/countries. I went on a national book tour and got to meet some of the coolest readers ever.

And yet, when Gayle Forman visited my blog yesterday, I got all embarrassed.  "Oh my gosh!  A New York Times bestselling author came to my blog and saw what I wrote about her book!  I probably looked like a huge dork.  She probably thinks I'm a weirdo."

Then I thought, wait a second.  I'm a New York Times bestselling author.  She probably didn't mind what I wrote.

Which left me wondering when I will feel like I'm there.  When I will feel legit.  Maybe it's a throwback to high school, where I was just barely cool enough for the cool kids to acknowledge my existence* but not cool enough for them to actually care that I existed.

I still don't feel like a cool kid.  Most of the time I feel like a huge dork, like all of the publishing stuff has happened to someone else and I'm the same lonely mom with a computer and a weird brain.  I still worry about my next book, whether or not my publisher will like it and want to buy it.  I worry about how readers will react to Supernaturally, and I flat out panic about writing the third book and finishing my journey with Evie.

I'll tell you right now, all the stuff that comes with publishing and happens or doesn't happen and seems like it would make all the difference in the world?  It's great.  Really!  I get all weird giddy when I think about the amazing things that have happened for me and this book I love.

But in the end, you're still the same person.  You still write by yourself and laugh out loud at your own jokes, and get down in the dumps when you feel like it's not working or when you haven't had enough time or creative energy to do anything new.  You still alternate between feeling like a freaking genius and wondering why on earth you think you have anything worthwhile to say.

In the end, there isn't enough validation in the world to making writing worthwhile if you don't love doing it.  There is no magical point where suddenly you've made it and you're one of the cool kids and you don't have to worry about anything ever again.  Or at least if there is, the cool kids haven't told me about it yet.**  In fact, I suspect that the cool kids don't even exist, or, if they do, they don't realize they are the cool kids.

Me?  I'm okay being a slightly neurotic dork who tells stories to herself and writes them down.  People seem to like my stories a lot, which is enough for me.  And besides which, I may be a dork but I'm a New York Times Bestselling Dork.

Now there's a title for my business cards...

*When there was no one cooler in the room or when they needed help with English homework.
**Probably because they no longer have homework they need help with.


Susanne Winnacker said...

New York Times Bestselling Dork. LOL. Great post! :D

heidikins said...

For the record: to me (in my dorktastic perspective) you were always cool and continue to be Freaking Awesome.



Leigh said...

I was having such an off day until I read this post! HA! So there is abolutely no hope for a better sense of well being and accomplishment in my future? Super.

Kiersten White said...

Leigh--Nope. Sorry : ) Publishing isn't a magic fix-all. Although it DOES give you some pretty cool bragging rights while hanging out with the other moms waiting to pick up your kids from school.

"So," they say, "how's that book thing going?"

(Yes, "that book thing.")

"Oh, pretty good," I say. "Hit the NYT bestseller list."

Silence as eyes bug out and a slightly smugger-than-is-healthy feeling bursts in my chest. Then they get back in their Lexuses and I get back in my mini-mini van and life goes on much as it ever has.

But you still do get to go to bookstores and see your book on the shelf, and that? NEVER GETS OLD.

Jaime Callahan said...

Great post about the problem with our perceptions of "getting there" or "making it". I'm not going anywhere with my with my own writing yet, but this helps with feeling like I need to be published or something before I can even apply the word "writer" to myself. This part sums me up perfectly: a slightly neurotic dork who tells stories to herself and writes them down. I'm working on being OK with it and it's nice to know other people are the same.

Nate Wilson said...

I think you nailed it: They don't realize they are the cool kids.

I'd wager most best-selling authors, and most authors in general, were not part of the in-crowd growing up. After all, it's hard to nab that "cool" status when you're holed up in your room reading books. Thus, most of us will always feel like we're on the outside, even if we do achieve success and become one of the "cool kids" the other authors look up to.

Well, except for Justin Bieber. I'm sure he knows he's "cool," even if the rest of us can't figure out why.

KT said...

Awesome post! Dorks are the coolest, sometimes it's just hard to realize :)

SM Schmidt said...

Why would anyone write to get validation from others? Sure little bit of narcissism is cool seeing your name on the shelf but...ouch if the need for others approval drove someone to suffer the agony of writing a book and then they might not get it. What a horribly sad thought.

I imagined the whole point to writing was the stories won't shut up inside your head and hey, they're not so bad, I could share them with other people. Or have I been going about this all the wrong way?

Michelle Wolfson said...

I think we all need a little validation from others sometimes. On my own worst self-doubting days, it's possible that I may have been known to go re-read through old posts on a certain blog labeled with the tag "my agent rocks."

But today I'll say that YOU ROCK!! And everyone who reads this blog is lucky to share in your journey.

Shainer said...

I love my stories and the characters. If someone told me, right now, that I would never publish anything, I'd keep writing. I love my characters and someone has to argue you with them. Besides if I didn't get the voices out of my head I might end up doing something really stupid one day (I'm kidding).

I am really happy your book has found such success, and that we have a chance to enjoy your amazing stories.

beth said...


I thought when I got my agent, I'd be a real writer.

I thought when I got my book deal, I'd be a real writer.

I thought when I got my ARCs, I'd be a real writer.

Now I suspect that even when the book comes out, I still won't feel like a real writer.

Or, perhaps, maybe I've been a real writer all along, so of course I feel no different.

Kiersten White said...

Michelle, whoever wrote that post must be brilliant. And she probably also gleefully replays phone conversations with you in her head when she's feeling down.

Kiersten White said...

Beth--Yes, all of the above : )

Kris said...

Kiersten--thanks so much for sharing your anxiety with us! I loved Paranormalcy and can't wait to see where Evie goes! It's good to know that even published "NY Times Bestsellers" sometimes have anxiety!

Congrats on all your success and good luck!

BookChic said...

LOL I loved this. :) I think you're one of the cool people.

Also, I was talking with Maggie Stiefvater at one of her signings and she said that she uses her NYT Bestseller status to win arguments, i.e. "Nope, you're wrong. I'm an NYT Bestselling Author. I win." It should work every time. :P

Julie Geistfeld said...


You inspired me when you were just a writer, like I am. You inspire me still, now that you're an author.

The NYT bestseller stuff is amazing, but it's naturally amazing you that makes me feel like maybe someone out there will 'get' my stories too.

I write because I have these stories to tell. I want to be an author because I think others will like these stories as well.

Sometimes it's scary to think of how being an author, or yikes a bestseller, would change a writer's life. But I see you and I keep trying. Because the face of a happy reader makes for a happy writer. You remind me of that.

At the end of the day we go home to take care of our kids and sit in the dark typing away to the movie in our head. Some things nothing can change.

Thanks for sharing your journey.

Jill Hathaway said...

Awesome post. Personally, I don't think I will ever feel as though I've gotten "there." There's always a next rung on the ladder.

Anita Saxena said...

Congratulations on all the success! And it couldn't have happened to a nicer dork :)

Jessica Love said...

I love that business card!

Eleven Eleven said...

You weren't one of the cool kids? I seriously thought you were-- one of those really rare nice ones. Maybe you were and just didn't know it.

Have you been reading Nathan Bransford's blog? He posted something almost as marvelous as this about the same topic yesterday.

I used to have a mini mini van, too! MPV by any chance? Loved that car. I mean van. I mean multi-purpose vehicle.

Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. Even to the NYT Best Seller list. This was an awesome post. I loved it.

Janean said...

I am pretty sure this has been my favorite post, by far. I dont know, it just really, spoke to me. Something I realized in highschool (being a dork myself) is that, we're all really dorks, the "cool kids" are just the REALLY good looking ones. This came to me after a night of hanging with the "cool guys" in HS and they all sat around playing video games, ALL NIGHT. Yep, just a buncha good looking dorks.
xo janean

Janean said...

ps. i want one of those business cards.

Lydia Sharp said...

I've been a bad blog follower/fellow author... I had no idea you were a NYT Bestselling Dork now! (this is me, all out of the loop in my writing cave)

Own it, girl. Most of us are only Dork wannabes at the moment. We bow to your Dorkdom. For realz.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

This is a great post. I hope it inspires others as much as it has me.

Ingrid Sundberg said...

NY Times Bestselling Dork! I love it! We dorks will inherit the earth!

Nikelle said...

Okay, one thing I love about reading your blog is that every time I read one of your posts about writing, it makes me want to go write. You inspire me! Thanks :)

Myrna Foster said...

When I grow up, I want to be a New York Times Bestselling Dork. Thanks for this!

Ishta Mercurio said...

I'll take NYT Bestselling Dork and put it on a business card any day.

Great post! I think if we all went around with flashing signs on our heads, we'd be surprised how many ordinary-seeming people (writers, painters, computer nerds) have done extraordinary things. We should own those things more.

And thanks for talking a little bit about the pressure of feeling like you need to maintain the success you've achieved. It's all a journey, and there isn't really a "there". It's good to remind us not-yet-NYT-bestselling-dorks of that.

Suzy Turner said...

Kiersten... if you didn't worry about all these things, you wouldn't be human! I haven't read Paranormalcy yet but I have been eyeing it up on the Book Depository website (just waiting for the paperback to become available) and I think it sounds amazing... as does Supernaturally.
I'm also loving your blog... so much so that it deserves an award (if you have a minute, pop over to my blog to see what those blog awards are all about).
Oh, and the by the way... as someone has already said... Dorks are Cool these days!!!

eeleenlee said...

Every time I go for a book signing or Q and A session about my short stories, I always feel like I'm going to get grilled (until well-done!)

Some degree of anxiety is normal, but nothing beats the buzz of seeing your work on the shelves.


Jamie Grey said...

Wow! This! This! This!

I'm not published or agented yet, I'm not even querying, but I still have the idea that once I have an agent/publishing contract/book I will finally feel like I belong, like I'm not an impostor. I'll be an Author.

But at the end of the day I'll still be just me. Dork and all. I'm glad to know that even someone as successful and talented as you has those same thoughts. It gives me hope.

Thanks so much for this post!

lynnrush said...

"New York Times Bestselling Dork" Bahahahaha, that made me laugh.

Happy Monday, Kiersten. Enjoy the journey!

lotusgirl said...

You're so there. Now. But. You are still you, and that's nice for us.

L. T. Host said...


Just think, you ARE the cool kid to a whole new generation of writers. And I don't just mean kids/ teens. I mean the un-pubbed writers, like myself, who freeze up and act awkward and make weird Tweets and self-disparaging comments at you because OMG that's actually Kiersten White.

So, no worries. I'm sure even Mr. Gaiman has someone he feels like the uncool kid around. (Well, okay, maybe he wasn't the best example).

Kiersten White said...

L. T., it's HILARIOUS to me that anyone is ever intimidated to talk to me : ) And you were adorable.

Claire Dawn said...

I wonder if you can be a writer without being a little bit of a dork. Mayeb we all are.

Sam Hranac said...

Lonely moms with computers and weird brains rock! Looking forward to the next book.

Joe Wolverton, II said...

Perhaps our kids have a hard time coping because all the books in the YA section feature the "romance" of the undead, unholy, and dystopian.