I wrote the first paragraph of my next book yesterday morning. The working title, subject to change without warning, is Black Beauty: A Life of Duke Ellington. I’m not going to share it with you just yet–I want to wait until I’ve got at least a couple of dozen pages under my belt and can see whether or not I’m really off to a convincing start–but the fact that I’m now officially at work on a book for which I’ll be signing the contracts later today strikes me as propitious enough to pass along.
I wanted to get started on Black Beauty right away in order to capitalize on the psychic momentum generated by the events of the past year. A colleague remarked to me at breakfast the other day that 2009 must have been the most eventful year of my professional life to date, and I couldn’t argue with him. The twin successes of Pops and The Letter have left me with an exhilarating sense of possibility, a feeling that I can do anything to which I set my mind.
When you’re feeling that way, it’s a good idea to pinch yourself blue at regular intervals, though life usually gets around to doing that for you sooner or later. I got just such a pinch in the mail the other day. A couple of years ago I blogged about an alleged cat-related quote of mine that turned out, much to my surprise, to be authentic. It first came to my attention when it popped up on a cat calendar, and not long after that I got a letter from the Borealis Press, a greeting-card company, asking if they could use it on one of their cards.
Though Borealis wasn’t offering much money–I was invited to choose between a small flat fee and a royalty–I was amused by the idea of seeing my name and words on a greeting card, so I opted for a royalty, signed the contract, and sent it back. A few weeks later I received a boxful of cards, and a few months after that I got my first check. If memory serves, I think it was for eight or nine dollars. Ever since then I’ve received four embarrassingly small checks each year from Borealis. When I got back from Florida, all full of myself and ready to pass miracles, I went through my snail mail and found yet another check, this one for the grand and glorious sum of $6.45.
I was tempted to frame the check as a reminder to stay humble, but then I thought of an even more profitable spiritual exercise: I went down to the bank last week, made out a deposit slip, took the check to a teller, and deposited it in my account.
The teller, bless her, didn’t crack a smile…but I did.