As a “woman of a certain age” who attempts to chronicle life’s nonsense with wit and wisdom, it is completely understandable that one of my role models should be Nora Ephron. To me, she was the gold standard. When it came to humorous essays from a female perspective, no one did it better. After all, what mature woman couldn’t identify with feeling bad about her neck, or the belief that life would be better if only she could find the perfect handbag.
I will never be Nora, not even if I lived another hundred years and kept writing. But that’s okay. I’m content to have her as the focus of my admiration and my muse. I evoke her name each time I sit down to write, and derive inspiration by asking myself, “now what would Nora say?”
So when a friend happened to remark to me, “Your essays are so funny, you should really put them in a book,” I immediately thought, “that’s what Nora did.”
Flattery notwithstanding, I could have let it go at that. But unfortunately, ideas often assume a life of their own. And this one morphed into a disembodied voice, which might have been Nora’s (or perhaps my mother’s?), who kept repeating “so do it already!”
The idea of creating a book was daunting. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it. I spent the better part of last summer writing, rewriting, and organizing, and much to my own amazement, produced a cohesive manuscript consisting of 50 of my essays. Well, somewhat cohesive, anyway. After all, it was my first attempt.
But the 200-odd pages just sitting on my desk wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Then an acquaintance kindly offered to show it to an editor she knew at a publishing company. And so the journey began.
But the manuscript, professionally packaged according to the industry standards that I researched on Google, never got out of the box. The editor couldn’t possibly read anything that wasn’t submitted by an agent!
So my manuscript needed a middle man. Locating a literary agent was all that was standing between me and The New York Times best-seller list. Surely this next step was not beyond the scope of my abilities. Wrong!
Looking on the internet, which contained listings of thousands of agents, was not very fruitful, so I racked my brain to come up with anyone I knew who was a writer — and had an agent. Yes, there was that woman, the journalist, who had a few books to her credit. So with high hopes, I shot off an email. She politely replied that her agent represented only journalists whose last names started with letters from L to Z. If you fell into the A to K category, you had to look for someone else.
Yes, the literary world was highly specialized. It was necessary to define my genre. I did not write mysteries or science fiction, self-help books, or bodice-ripping romances. I wrote humorous personal essays. (“Like Nora,” I wanted to scream to all those who ignored me.) The problem was, unless you were a famous person writing personal essays, no one was interested in what you had to say. Well, if no one was interested in what I had to say, how was I ever going to be a famous person? I seriously thought about changing my last name to Ephron.
I didn’t. Change my name, that is. But, so far, no agent, no editor, no publisher. Thus, like so many other frustrated new authors (notice I didn’t say “young” authors), I decided to shortcut the journey and self-publish.
Self-publishing is a lot like regular publishing except that the exchange of money moves in a different direction. Instead of the publisher paying you for the right to print your book, you pay them for the right to print your book. And who knows? Perhaps my book would eventually sell enough copies so my heirs would each make $1.50.
And so the process began and nine months later, my baby was born. My book of essays, entitled How Old Am I In Dog Years? and other thoughts about life from the far side of the hill was a reality.
The book was officially released on May 12, with immediate distribution to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line book sellers. There was a promise, but no guarantee that the book would find its way into actual book stores.
So you can image my surprise when I recently walked into my local Barnes & Noble book store, and sauntered over to the humor section. Much to my sheer amazement and utter delight, there I was on the shelf, spine following spine, nestled right up to Nora! I’m so glad that I didn’t change my name. Because she’s an “E” and I’m a “G.” And there we will remain, side by side, me and my idol. As long as there’s no “F” in the way!
How Old Am I In Dog Years? may be purchased from Amazon.com, B&N.com, Booksamillion.com, and Googlebooks, or check with your local Barnes & Noble bookstore. The book may also be purchased directly from me at SusanGoldfein.com. An electronic version is also available. For those attending the book launch in Westport, CT, the book will be available for sale at that time.