On having a debut novel wing its way into the world.

the border of paradise anna kwon

Listen to me read the below here:

 

Despite the publication date of The Border of Paradise (Unnamed Press) being a week away, my book is and has been winging its way to people via Amazon and indie booksellers over the last few days; I signed copies of Border at the 12,000-person AWP conference for writers and writers’ programs in Los Angeles last week; Border is, for all intents and purposes, out in the world, as you can see above from Anna Kwon’s Instagram photos. It is now is something that people are able to read while eating pho—something that touched me deeply when I saw it appear in my feed—and last night, writer Sarah Galo tweeted, “I need to [lie] down. It’s been a long time that I’ve felt that much suspense and dread when nearing the end of a novel. The Border of Paradise is unsettling in a way that most won’t risk treading near. There’s a lot of risk in [Esmé Weijun Wang’s] novel, and it pays off.”

So it’s out there. For a long time it lived on my computer and in my head. It was what I talked about over breakfast and investigated on the page and in my dreams. (I went through a phase where I had recurring dreams about being the book’s various characters; Border is told from seven different points of view, so that makes sense in a way.)

Having a debut novel come out is extraordinary, and yet nothing like I thought it’d be—I’d watched my friends go through this process over the last decade again and again, and had wondered many times what it would be like to go through it myself. I’m going through it. I’m going through it right now.

Author of The Cake is for the Party and creator of the Story is a State of Mind writing program Sarah Selecky, whom I’d known online and through letters in the post, came to my AWP reading, which I was enormously flattered by. She walked up to me after the reading; we chatted. She gave me the most valuable advice she’d been given when her debut came out, which was to keep a journal about the process. “You’ll forget things that happened,” she said. “I did. It’s a whirlwind. You’ll be glad you wrote it down.”

journal on a dining table

As most of you know, I’m a dedicated journal-keeper. (I even teach a class about it.) Still, I hadn’t been keeping diligent notes about the publication process; I am now, having spoken to Sarah. Now, I jot down what people are saying on Twitter. I copy down blurbs from Lit Hub and make notes of what lists the book has appeared on. My to-do lists are littered with book-related tasks: write such-and-such essay for this magazine, phone call on Thursday with such-and-such journalist, respond to Q&A for such-and-such website. It’s sadly easy to let the stress of these things overwhelm me, to forget that each of these things is a tremendous honor, to forget that this is one long moment that I’ve been hoping for over years of hard work and torrents of tears. It’s happening. It’s happening!

One last thing: my dear friend M gifted me a celebration banner, made of tag board and string, while we were at AWP. I’m not sure when I’ll finally string it around my office, but I do know that celebration is important. I’m celebrating every single one of these sweet and complicated days.

Esmé

 

 

 

P.S. Interested in learning more about The Border of Paradise? I have a book page here—please do check it out.

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