*Deep Breath* Here We Go. (And the Day Margaret Atwood Tweeted Me)

 

*Deep Breath* Here We Go. (And the Day Margaret Atwood Tweeted Me)Today is the launch of the radio tour for The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness (if you found your way here from one of the radio interviews or other promotions for the book, by the way, welcome!)

My publisher has ensconced me in a Holiday Inn Express for a couple of days, so that I have a landline to do radio from (cell phones do not fly, apparently! Too unpredictable.) On the other hand, I’ve still got a 9-5 job, so I’m doing radio for half-days and then working the rest of the day at the theatre (if my bosses stop by and read this – thank you!!!)

None of it has really sunk in yet. Oh, it’s starting to make a slight dent in my consciousness, but I’m sort of this ball of excited/nervous/terrified/exhausted and in the end all of those competing emotions seem to be cancelling one another out in a way, until I just feel numb and a little shell-shocked. And I want to do a good job, of course :-P

Something happened a little over a week ago that just sort of made my life, and I’m still working to process it. Margaret Atwood tweeted (positively!) about my book. Of her own volition. And then had a brief Twitter conversation with me. my mind is just sort of blown and everything after that seems like it’s a bonus. Like that was the pinnacle of my life and everything afterwards is just gravy.

It’s hard to communicate how it feels having one of your heroes mention you. Authors are like my rock stars. Margaret Atwood, in particular, and this is why:

OK, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I was raised in a hardcore fundamentalist sect. It was a pretty claustrophobic, insular, and high-control group, to say the least.

My stepdad gave me several of his childhood books when he married my mother. I was 6. One of these books was 1984, by George Orwell.  I’m not sure he remembered the book specifically or what it was about, because that’s pretty heavy reading material for a kid, and especially a Jehovah’s Witness kid (who is supposed to stick to “Watchtower Society” literature and avoid “worldly” reading materials, particularly ones about totalitarianism and free thinking, revolution, etc.)

I began the book.  Fairly early on I realized I probably shouldn’t be reading it.  So I hid it and read it anyway.  Plus, I was 6 and it had some sex in it, so let’s be honest, that was kinda fascinating and taboo for me.  Even though I was so little and didn’t necessarily get the entire meaning the first time, I re-read it several more times over the next couple years, and as I matured I started making vague connections with the way I had been raised.  Similar logic patterns, doublespeak, control tactics, etc.

When I was 12 or 13, I spent a winter vacation from school in Toronto with my great-aunt.  She was a wonderful woman who took me to used bookstores, where I would load up on whatever I could carry and more.

It was in one of these used bookstores that I came across Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

I made the connection with 1984 very quickly – both books about a dystopian, totalitarian society in which freethinking is forbidden and underground.  But The Handmaid’s Tale, I felt, was even more specific to my situation – the “negative utopia” in which it was set was run by Biblical fundamentalists, and the main theme was women in particular being repressed by religion taken to the highest, most literal, possible extreme.  I understood what it meant, even then, to be a girl forbidden higher education, and taught to be very literally “in subjection” to men.  ”A weaker vessel”.

These two books were responsible for planting seeds in my mind that would later help shape my beliefs.  They changed my life and my outlook.  They made me consider points of view I wasn’t “supposed” to think about.

So last Friday, I received an email from my editor:  ”Margaret Atwood tweeted that she’s reading your book!”

I couldn’t believe, though, that it was the Margaret Atwood.  I stared at the screen and thought about this for a moment.  Could there be another Margaret Atwood somewhere?  Surely not The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood?

I clicked on the Twitter account that my editor linked to, and stared at the postage-stamp-sized profile pic.  It did kind of look like Margaret Atwood.

So I stood up, walked away from my desk, got a drink at the water fountain to clear my head, and came back to my cubicle.  I looked again.

Holy shyte, that was definitely THE Margaret Atwood!

Thusly was my brain short-circuited and I’ve been a little numb and in disbelief ever since.  I tweeted her a thank you, and she actually responded to me (twice!), and said very kind things about the book – that it was “gripping” and “funny” and had her “chewing the ends of her fingers”.  I do not even know what to do with that.  I just don’t.  The waves of happy and awesomeneness and “wtf?!  Margaret Atwood?!?!” just keep washing over me.

On the same day, the book received a starred review from Kirkus, which I’m told is a prize not to be taken lightly, and for which I am super grateful (and again, a little shell-shocked).  A few days later, Rosie O’Donnell mentioned on her Sirius radio show that she was reading my book and found it “fascinating”.  It’s such a weird feeling; I can’t even explain it, to think that public figures, people you’ve heard of and know because they’re authors or media personalities…have somehow heard about your book, picked it up and read it.  I feel so humbled; obviously I could never consider myself in the same league as these people, but all the same they’ve shown me such kindness by not only reading, but sharing their reactions to the book.

I’m still having trouble coming to terms with the fact that a bona-fide hero, an author and an activist like Margaret Atwood knows who I am and likes my story.  It makes me feel, just for a few fleeting minutes that perhaps I’m not a “Snooki”.  Maybe I really could be – am? – a writer.  A fledgling one with a looooong way to go, of course, but…a writer?  That terrifies me.  It excites me.  It exhausts me.  I also know that even if nothing this amazing ever happens in my life again, it’s already been so much more than I could ever expect.

Early this morning the radio tour began (hello, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee!  *waves*) Tomorrow the book hits shelves.  I’m just bracing and trying to take it all in.  Please keep your fingers crossed for me and let’s rock ‘n roll.  I have a feeling this might be one hell of a ride.

Comments

  1. Enjoy , enjoy and make the most of every single minute – we are routing for you here in the UK ……

  2. Absolutely wonderful!!!

    This post is so full of something upbeat excitement (well deserved, of course).

    I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I am for you. And, although you may not think so of yourself — you are a writer (and a published one, at that.) Congrats.

    - micheal -

  3. I think one thing you, I and Margaret Atwood clearly understand is “Free thinking has a social responsibility, even though it is “Free”. In other words, We have to be responsible to ourselves as humans, even in Freedom, or we pay by losing our acts of Freedom. This is what I always say and it is my quote “Freedom without Responsiblity is a license to destroy”.

  4. A review of your book is on Amazon! It may not show up yet but it is there.

  5. Sharon Edwards says:

    I posted long ago you ARE a writer! YOU ARE! ENJOY this amazing time!

  6. kenneth R says:

    i have been homeless for years back in my late twenties,
    i am now 60 lost my job nearly two years ago,,i am struggling to keep my home,,and every day i pray fora job,i get up in the mornings and leave home looking,,or spend 10 hours on the computer looking and posting reasume,the news that you are moving forward to better things and your book being publish brings tears of gladness,,and over welming feelings of hope..blessings my friend and be happy,,kenneth

  7. Congratulations! I am so happy for you. You deserve all the success in the world, and more…
    and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person! Your writing is beautiful. You are a very gifted
    writer.

  8. I have been waiting for your book to come out for sometime and now it is ON ITS WAY!! Hopefully to arrive about Friday! I have read your blog for quite awhile and always been impressed with your attitude and fortitude, not to mention smarts!! Enjoy your time now, you’ve earned it!!

  9. Wow, I just read about your book on HuffPo. What an adventure you’ve had!

    And now, I read that you were raised in the JW’s. And that reading Orwell and Atwood during your time in the Borganization helped to free your mind – OH HOW I CAN RELATE. I was a regular pioneer right out of high school, etc. Didn’t escape until my 20′s from that cult, but had doubts building for years, and re-reading those books helped me to realize that my doubts were with foundation. Funny how fiction can have such an impact – which tells us the important role it plays in our existence.

    Congratulations on the book, and more importantly, on getting the job and getting back on track. I was downsized out of my job in 2009. I’m fortunate enough that my husband kept his job, and while we are living on a shoestring budget, we are trying to get our little sustainable farm to support itself and eventually turn a profit. We gotta take care of ourselves – ain’t no “1000 year reign” by a magical sky-king gonna instantly make things better for anyone, right? ;)

    Take care!
    Trase

  10. Your book arrived at the beginning of the week… I started it the night before last and finished it tonight after dinner. You have a real and true talent for writing and I hope to God ( i know, i know) that you continue on with it, whenever your land somewhere permanant and have the time to carry on. It was an amazing( and appalling there towards the end) ture story from start to finish, and you are an amazing young woman. I’ll keep an eye on your blog and your future. The best is coming, so enjoy!!!

    Take care, Linny…. hugs to Fez

    • …oh forgot to mention…I lived in a van for about 7 months when I first moved here to Santa Cruz, so it was so easy to relate to your experiences of just common everyday life “out there”…from toileting to bathing…and eating. Lived in the parking lot of the place i was fortunate enough to have gotten hired at. Your book brought back alot of memories of those times… some 30 years ago…whoot!… I turn 60 in September(spit.. like Joan Rivers). Its good to know how to do that, though I was fortunate like you in that I had someplace to sleep, to be, to hide. It was a hard time and I wouldn’t want to do it again, but at least i know that I could if i had to again. One just never knows. I also had two cats and a dog at the time.

  11. WOW!! What a great book! I saw it a Wal-Mart just a few days ago and thought it may be a good read and it was…The funny thing was when I started reading it and saw the words Jehovah Witness!!! I grew up a JW too..my mother was a second generation JW and my father was not one so it made for a crazy childhood! I know the your story of being homeless was the main issue but the religion part is what kept me picking it back up. Some of the things you said rang so close to home that I couldn’t believe it. I have no contact with any other former JW’s but sometimes I wonder how their lives have turned out. My mother is still one and is now married to an Elder in the congregation. We still talk but we don’t talk religion because the few times we have the blood issue comes up. I have a hard time dealing with the fact that she would let me die before giving me blood. I have 2 children of my own now and just couldn’t imagine letting them die because I wouldn’t give them what they needed to survive!
    I am so very proud that you are overcoming your situation and are on your way to better things. As the old saying goes what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger!

  12. Brent.D says:

    Hey, just picked up your book a few days ago and just found the blog. Wow. Great story (pause to worry about how that sounds). The way you were still able to keep picking your feet up and going forward is just … wow. At the risk of sounding like a magazine review (NOOOO!!!), it really did change my views on the whole homeless thing (insert wince). You really are a great writer and i’m definitely gonna be checking back in here when i can as a fellow paycheck prisoner (my term but feel free to steal and abuse it).

    P.S. – Say hi to Fez for me. Dogs do make better people than people most of the time, after all.

    • Brianna says:

      Aw, thank you very much. It always makes me happy when guys read the book and like it too, because I like to think it’s not just chick lit lite.

      I like the term “paycheck prisoner”! Pretty much all of us are that, eh?

      I shall give Fez an extra vigorous bellyrub on your behalf. Thanks for writing! :)

      ~Bri

  13. I just finished your book last night. I couldn’t put it down, then after I finished it I couldn’t sleep. I just kept wishing I knew you so that I could give you a huge hug and make you a mug of tea. All I can say is, you’re my new hero. Thank you for writing this amazing book and please keep writing!

    Also, SO jealous that you got to tweet with Margaret Atwood! She has been my hero since I first picked up Handmaid’s Tale in college. I have read everything by her that I can get my hands on. She seriously rocks.

    Stay strong, Lovely Girl

  14. I love this post! i came here from the yahoo story and now I am totally hooked. I am looking for your book. If Margaret Atwood liked it I love it!

  15. Hey Brianna

    I came across your article on yahoo, and here I am reading your blog. Is there a way to buy the book online?? I live in Samoa.

    Hope to hear from you soon..keep up the good work

    • Brianna says:

      Hi Juney,

      It’s available only in North America at this immediate moment…they’re working on making it available internationally, but that’s a process. Something about international rights. Your best bet if you live in Samoa and just can’t wait might be to try an indie bookstore or somebody on eBay who ships worldwide, maybe?

      Hopefully they’ll have the international stuff figured out very soon, though :) Cheers, thanks for writing, and good luck!

      ~Bri

      • I bought the Kindle edition and am half-way through. Didn’t have to wait for it to arrive via mail.

      • I am on Guam and bought the book at our local Bestseller bookstore a couple of weeks ago. I could not stop reading and absolutely love it. And I love that I can continue to follow your story through your blogs.

        Brianna, you are really amazing and very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

        @Juney: I hope you are able to get a hold of a copy… you won’t regret it. :-)

  16. Jennifer C says:

    Margaret Atwood!! Kudos!!! As a recent discoverer, it seems your book is going the way of Prozac Nation and Go Ask Alice (albeit I assume less drug-y and a little more applicable to the situation in our nation today)

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and shaping the opinions of those who may not know any better.

  17. SANDRA CONLEY says:

    Read your blog~~~I’m so happy that your life took a turn for the better. Things are tough for everyone these days…God Bless Everyone on this Earth~~~no matter what your circumstances!

  18. What you did is impressive. Love your writing and I am looking forward to getting a copy of your book. WIll keep an eye on your blog. Keep up the good work. N.

  19. I just read your book and loved it. I also wanted to say that you couldn’t be a Snooki if you tried. Light years apart.

  20. Junaluska says:

    At 70 this is my first blog. But just had to let you know how much I enjoyed your book. I read almost nothing but non-fiction as fiction almost always has me saying “oh, PLEASE!” by the third chapter or so, and that is a far as I get. But I will give Margaret Atwood a try.

    My best to you as you move forward with your life. You are doing things that matter and that is the most important thing for any life.
    Junaluska

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