The Book Launch: One Survivor’s Story

By Lauri Kubuitsile

5:30 p.m.: Okay, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to live in the moment tonight, &agrav; la Oprah. I’m not going to be my normal spastic self, planning every minute of my future, coming up with fantastic scenarios that keep me obsessed for hours. I am not going to spend the whole time being somewhere else and then have to ask my husband what happened. It’s my book launch for goodness sake! My first ever! My dream come true! My confirmation that I’m finally a real writer! This is my day and I’m going to grab it with both hands! Seize the day! Seize the day!

5:35 p.m.: Who am I kidding? I’m not a writer. A writer is somebody else. Ernest Hemmingway. Margaret Atwood. André Brink. These are writers. But then, what am I? A big fat scam, that’s what. Somehow I slipped through the cracks. Writers don’t feel like this. Writers are different. Writers are not like me.

5:45 p.m.: I’ve decided not to wear the new clothes. Clothes can be your worst enemy. I don’t know these; they could do anything. I’m sticking with the enemies I know: black skirt that never misbehaves, but does make my bum sweat; navy tank which believes itself to be sexy and often travels to places that it really shouldn’t, revealing things that, at 41 years old, really shouldn’t be revealed; and the olive jacket that looks positively “Mom-ish.” Is this what a writer looks like? Extremely doubtful. The evidence against me is mounting.

6:10 p.m.: My hair has decided that we will be performing at the Grand Ole Opry tonight and will not be convinced otherwise even by a stern Alice band. Despite all efforts to the contrary, I have begun my descent into spaz mode. I’ve already seen myself in front of everyone unable to speak, paper shaking uncontrollably in my hands. Or alternatively, speaking maniacally about my dog to the two people, besides my family, who have managed to show up. The scenarios of disaster are endless, and are rolling through my mind like a newsreel on a case of Red Bull. Just because I’ve written a book, don’t think I’m a writer. No, that would be a big mistake. Have opened the box of wine.

6:30 p.m.: I’ve changed back and forth between two pairs of shoes 43 times until my husband has taken control of the situation. Getting up to go to the car, I knock over the now empty box of wine and realize to my surprise that I am no longer spazzing. Am I going to be okay? Unlikely. I’m now drunk. A drunk writer-poser dressed as a “Mom-ish” Dolly Parton. Great. Just great. My husband, in typical “everything’s fine” mode, says, “So, we’re off then.”

Off, yeah, we’re off all right, I whisper to myself.

7:00 p.m.: They’ve come! I’m here. This is it. My first-ever book launch! The store looks marvelous, my book is stunning. I have a perfect view of everything from the corner where I’m hiding, behind the nonfiction section.

7:30 p.m.: It’s my turn. I speak about something I would be hard pressed to remember. I see people smiling. My husband nods his head, agreeing with whatever it is I have said. I’ve let Oprah down dismally. I’m just floating around overhead, not really in any moment at all. Surprisingly, the crowd seems to be buying whatever I’m saying. There’s been no indignant bookworm coming forward, shouting about the sham of it all.

Is this what a writer is? A writer writes and then people come and listen to her talk and think she knows something about what she’s written when she really hasn’t a clue? Could it be that all those famous writers are just like this? Lost as to how or why they wrote what they wrote and not really having anything to say, just making it up along the way? No. No, can’t be. Those are writers. This is me. Completely different.

7: 55 p.m.: People are buying books. They want me to sign them. I’m prepared, of course. I’m a Capricorn. I write my little blurb and sign and the person, for some reason, is so thankful. Yesterday the bank teller gave me a scowl when she asked for my signature on the check I forgot to sign; today someone is thankful to have me muck up her new book with it. What a difference a day makes.

9:30 p.m.: At dinner, family and friends say that it went well. I believe them only to the extent that I know they have to say that. I drink more wine and ramble on excitedly. Am I not a real writer now? I have a book with my name on it. Disappointedly, I feel no different.

11:45 p.m.: I flop down on the hotel bed, the world spinning from too much alcohol and too many emotions. How is it when you reach your dream? This is how it is, I answer myself. It’s just like this. Drunk in a hotel room that smells slightly of stale cigarettes, my children and husband smiling down at me. A look of pride on their faces.

It’s good, I think. And as I undress, realizing I’ve worn my shirt backwards the entire night, I spend a few moments smack in the present. I look at my name on the book, run my finger over its cover. I am an author, I say out loud to no one, for they’ve all gone to sleep.

And I smile and know, finally, that it is true.

Lauri Kubuitsile is a freelance writer and author of the novella The Fatal Payout (Macmillan, 2005). She has written for Australian School Magazine, Dogma.Net, Ghost Magazine, Learning Through History, OTTN Publishing, Kutlwano Magazine, and Touraters, among others. Her short stories have won prizes in the 2004 Commonwealth Short Story Competition and the John H. Reid/Tom Howard Annual Short Story & Prose Contest 2005. She lives in Botswana with her long suffering husband and two teenage children. You can find Lauri Kubuitsile’s blog Thoughts from Botswana.