"Publisher's Weekly destroyed me," I told my husband Eric when he got into the car with Bianca and me as we were leaving to see the symphony last night. I chose my words carefully, for all the various meanings it could possibly have. Before I left, I read the review over quickly, and I can't ever go back. Never. There was not one constructive thing; not one thing that I could fix to make it better; it pretty much said the entire novel was fit for the garbage--a terrible plot line and unappealing characters. No use editing. It's amazing how a project I worked on for two years can be whittled down to nothing in a matter of seconds. So much so that I don't know if I could ever send it out. Someone said something on one of the ABNA boards about some of the critics being "baby killers" because our novels are our babies, we've spent so much time making them and loving them and fixing them up. I see exactly what they mean now. This makes me feel like a failure and makes me seriously wonder why I've been wasting my time. Should I even keep this awful manuscript around or do I trash it, just like PW did today. But I stayed strong all day and wouldn't let myself cry. I kept telling myself I would be strong.
I couldn't eat dinner last night. So I sat down to the symphony with an aching tummy, hoping for a relaxing night and a reprieve from the sad feeling that sat like bricks in my stomach. It was a night of popular classic songs that kids from the local Youth Guild were able to vote on. A local celebrity, Big Budah from Fox 13 News, was hosting and introducing the songs that had been chosen. At the beginning of the night, he asked the crowd, "Who here voted?" My little Bianca rose her hand. She was the only person in the entire crowd who had voted for the songs online about a month ago. Big Budah thought this was funny and kept referring to the pieces played, the performance "put together by the conductor and Bianca." At intermission, one of the women in charge came over to Bianca and asked her if she'd want to go up on stage with Big Budah. She excitedly followed the woman backstage. When Eric and I took our seats again, Bianca went on stage with Big Budah and did a whole ad-lib act where they were playing back and forth and joking. They had a really cute rapport, and he brought her out between every song for the rest of the performance to do skits and introduce the songs. Bianca was amazing, calm, and absolutely adorable. I sat there as Pachelbel's Canon in D was playing and a couple tears came. A teeny bit because I was thinking of that horrible review, but mostly because I was watching my daughter--my project of nine years--up on that stage, successful.
After we picked her up at the end of the night, so many people stopped us on our way out of Abravenal Hall to tell Bianca what a good job she did and some looked to me and said, "And you must be amazing parents!" And I couldn't stop smiling because I felt like it was a little gift I'd gotten to help me get through a heart-wrenching day.
On our drive home, Bianca was telling us all the things she'd talked about with Big Budah. One thing he'd said to her is that he wanted to keep her. And I know how he feels. She is an amazing little girl that I'm so proud of. I don't know if I can take all the credit for her, but she makes me happy every day and her successes are my successes. And even if I never make it as a writer (which looks pretty probable from where I'm sitting now), I have a supportive husband and Portia and Bianca (my real babies) and I get to keep them.