How My Library Patrons Unexpectedly Helped Me Finish My Novel

How My Library Patrons Unexpectedly Helped Me Finish My Novel

In September of 2020, I started working more regularly at my local library, and not exactly on purpose. It was a tumultuous time: the world was reeling from COVID-related chaos, illness, and death, and our country was beginning to reckon, finally, with racially motivated murders by police. In the midst of this, I had my own private, puny sorrow—one that hardly mattered in the grand scheme of things, but wrecked me all the same: I'd written a second that no one wanted to publish. I knew rejection well by then, of course, having been a writer all my life, but because this failure followed a successfully published first novel, it pierced my thickened skin. I was told by numerous well-meaning writer friends that books failed to sell all the time, even books by writers I knew and revered. That gave me some comfort, but still, I suffered, and became insufferable, even to myself. I told myself I would never write another book again—much less sell one—and that our family would lose our hard-won house, have to leave town, and move in with my husband's parents, who lived on the opposite coast. My toxic internal voice told me I'd ruined everything with this failure of mine—and I firmly believed it. Around this time, my supervisor at the library called to ask if I'd be willing to take on more hours. Some staff members were—understandably—concerned returning to public-facing work, so she needed others to step in. In my previous life, I would have hesitated over losing precious hours, but now I gave a quick, emphatic yes, and began working more often. It was a relief to step out of my house, and out of my wallowing state of mind, to walk to work along the path to town. While I noticed sparrows and starlings in the trees, and the bright sparkle of the sun-dappled river, I felt an instant uplift at the prospect of frequent work: I would be distracted from my troubles, I would make some much-needed money, and I would serve the public, who were greatly […]

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