Message in a bottle

“To give one’s work to the world is an experience of peculiar emptiness. The work goes away from the artist into a void, like a message stuck into a bottle and flung into the sea.”

Those dour words and sentiments belong to American writer Joyce Johnson. I don’t share ’em.

It’s been three weeks since I flung my own bottle into the sea, and I don’t feel empty; I am cautiously hopeful. My book is not cased in glass and bobbing alone on the ocean; it’s a just-released bird. Fragile as hell, but its heart beats and it is free.

And as I begin to hear from people celebrating the stories and courage of the women of Runaway Wives, I am the opposite of empty; I am cautiously grateful.

The story is out there. I think it’s living and breathing and flying on its own.

Have I done enough? Could I do more? I heard a Telegraph story yesterday about how Marcel Proust a) self-published his manuscript of Swann’s Way when no publisher would touch it; b) wrote his own glowing third-person review and then paid major newspaper Le Figaro almost $1,400 in today’s dollars to publish it — on its front page; and finally  c) bribed another major paper to run a friend’s equally rapturous review. This all had to have cost him thousands and was clearly unethical, but, um, it created momentum.

Within weeks of its publication, the Telegraph reports, the widely rejected manuscript was being hailed as a work of “genius.”


Runaway Wives is no work of genius, but I do know that momentum is a great thing. Making the bestseller list at McNally Robinson these past four weeks has put the book front and centre every day in the store, on its own special table with the other bestsellers. Selling more books clearly sells more books.

“Bestseller” placement and marketing is so vital, I heard one author bought an entire case of books one time just to keep his sales in the prize ring one more week.

I don’t have the chutzpah or the energy. I have just two pulpits left to preach the word — this week in Vancouver and later this fall in Victoria.

Runaway Wives has to be good enough to go it alone.

I may be running out of steam. But I can’t help but hope this bird travels far, without me.

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