I sold my first novel as dramatically as possible – I was sitting in the lobby of a grand hotel in Palm Beach, being serenaded by a pianist. The room was empty except for me, said pianist, and my husband and mother-in-law. We’d just had a book club for my short story collection over tea, and my mother-in-law’s friends had all gone home, tippling off into the Floridian night.
The story collection had been published by a one-man-band sort of outfit, who would’ve sold books out of his garage, if he’d had a garage. I ended up paying him, if that tells you anything about the arrangement. My agent called with the news that my very favorite editor had made a pre-emptive bid, effectively shutting down the competition and declaring her love. I cried. I was wearing a fancy dress and make-up and I’d already had several glasses of champagne, but I would have cried anyway. My husband cried, too. There had been other offers over the previous few days, all of which I now recall with a dreamy soft-focus, as if they were shot through lenses coated in Vaseline, but those offers all went out the window.
I went to the gift shop at the hotel and bought myself a small ceramic jewelry box painted to look like the ceiling of the room we’d been sitting in, desperate to have a memento of the moment. It holds my most treasured things, and is itself one of my most treasured things. It’s not easy to have a perfect moment in life – I can think of maybe three, the other two being the exchange of my wedding vows and the birth of my child – but selling my book was one of them. Maybe I need to spend more time in grand rooms, waiting for the phone to ring.
Emma's book, The Vacationers, is out now.