Wednesday, August 19, 2009

i'll look back too

With my fellow Blue Rose Girls reminiscing about their lives less ten years, I thought I should do the same. Unfortunately, I have no journals and a poor memory, so am a little hazy about exactly what I was doing. But I remember in 1999, I was poor, living off of ramen noodles, my first book "The Ugly Vegetables" was published, I was working at a bookstore and this happened:

A woman that I had had a cooking class with came into the bookstore. A friend that was also taking the class had told her about my book (I would never have told her myself) and she came in with the express purpose of getting it. Kind-hearted soul that she was, she was so excited that she never even noticed me at the back of the store.

"I took a cooking class with her!" the woman said proudly, " I just saw her last week!"
"Uh, great," my co-worker said, with a definite lack of enthusiasm, "I see her everyday."
Don't tell her I work here! I thought to myself, Don't tell her I'm here!

My co-worker, who was almost as socially awkward as myself, offered no more information and the woman just gave a puzzled smile as she bought the book. And I breathed a sigh of relief from behind the bookshelf I was hiding.

I look back at this memory with quite a bit of amusement. Somehow, I had felt if customers knew I worked in the bookstore the "author mystique" would be ruined. I'm not sure why. If I went into a bookstore now and was told the person behind the counter was the author, I'd be thrilled-- not disappointed. But I guess ten years ago, I had this ideal of what an author was supposed to be like and if I didn't fit the ideal then people would know that I was a fake!

The truth is before 1999, I had spent so much time concentrating on trying to get published, I had an extremely hazy idea of what came afterwards. I guess I thought after getting a book published, I'd be set. Transformed. I would be rich and witty and sophisticated...not eating instant noodles, awkward, wearing dirty sneakers and working as the lowest rung of a bookstore (I was an extremely bad bookseller).

So how have I changed since then? Not too much, but enough. I'm not rich, witty or sophisticated but I am less awkward (I hope!), I have clean sneakers and I don't work at a bookstore. I do sometimes still feel like I am faking the author thing but usually realize in time that there is no author ideal to pretend. But most of all, I am profoundly grateful that everything seems to be working out-- that the path I began ten years ago was allowed to continue and that I see it stretch out before me.

And I don't eat Ramen noodles anymore either. That stuff can kill you.


alvinaling said...

I still love eating ramen. But it's best to eat the non-fried, non-overly-processed kind.

I love your thoughts on the "author mystique"--I think now with the internet and Facebook and blogs, etc, that mystique has been shattered. It's a new world of transparency, now!

S. Krishna said...

I am working on BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week)and your blog, Blue Rose Girls, has been nominated for an award! More information will be forthcoming, but please e-mail me your e-mail address as soon as possible, within the next 24 hours at the latest. My e-mail address is skrishna [at] skrishnasbooks [dot] com. Thanks!

Grace Lin said...

Oh, I still love Ramen noodles--I meant I don't eat that instant-just-add-hot-water kind that costs 7 packages for a dollar. And is "Oriental Flavor."

Rita said...

Haha, the mere mention of ramen gave me an instant craving, and then you ended the post like that! (But I've moved on from the "Oriental Flavor" packs, too.) (Well, maybe not that far. There may be some fancier Korean versions in my cupboard.)

I love this story so much; it cracked me up!! Totally related to the hiding, the near-discovery, the author ideal. What an awesome way to illuminate Change.

Thank you for sharing.
:D (I'm going to have some noodles now.)

Meghan McCarthy said...

Grace, there is an author mystique. I've experienced the disappointment first hand when a customer realizes that the author of a book works at a bookstore! There's a look of confusion and then disappointment.