I love the idea of Santa.  I love even more the idea of being his helper.  This year this helper sat down on Cyber Day and found something for everyone on her list, assisted in the stocking department by the natural body oil/butter/cosmetic company’s warehouse sale three blocks away.
A few moments ago, as I organized the gifts in plastic bags to make the midnight Christmas Eve distribution easier, I discovered I had a theme going that I didn’t plan on:  everyone in my family will either look good or smell good or both.  That includes my sons and husband, their packages containing silk boxer briefs, four cedar/patchouli balls tucked cunningly inside each waistband.
I’m not sure they’ll catch the joke.  My granddaughters, being teenagers, will.  We’ll have a Merry Christmas laugh and a few, “Grandma Joie,” rollings of the eyes in disbelief.
The thing is, I’ve been smiling, laughing, and not believing for more than a week. My Christmas present arrived on December 15th with the announcement that Grandma Graffiti was named to the 100 Best Books 2013 list by Kirkus Reviews, shocking Graffiti Grandma, aka Ellie, and me into speechlessness. We both recovered enough to get organized, notify a few friends, have a glass of white wine or so.

And then I bought Ellie a present, a big one. After discovering that I’d sold four more copies of the book since the announcement, I took the plunge.  I bought three ads in several of the Kirkus Review editions.  Like many gifts, once handed over, those ads may drop into a bottomless black hole.  But last night, in the midst of a late what-have-I-done wakefulness, Ellie whispered, “At least I apparently smell good to some folks, and you’ve got the balls to do something about it.”
As for the silk boxers, they look wonderfully comfy.  I’m hoping a son or husband will return a pair to me because they are not his style.   I’m pretty sure they are mine.


So, I did all those things my To Do list told me to do and I’ve ended up with three book club presentations/readings, three readings in pubs (handy for enticing friends to show up), two workshops in retirement residences, and a possible multiple-meeting workshop booking with the local library. Amazing what a starred review can do, energy-wise.
I presented my first workshop this week at a fine retirement residence, attracted five folks much my age, who have either written in the past or who may now write with the encouragement of a writing group. It took me a while to understand that those folks didn’t give a hoot about Graffiti Grandma; they were there to begin writing.  Several weren’t sure what they’d write, several knew but were stuck at the first sentence.  I shut up and listened, finally, and I may now belong to a writing once again.  I hope so.
I quit my other writing group a few weeks ago when I realized that I was too old to hand out twenty pages of my novel each month. I would be senile before we ever got through it. My writing partners seemed to agree. So, for the first time, I have hired an editor who will take a look at Edith, line-wise and arc-wise, and tell me (for a fee, of course) what she thinks I should do with this story––a new experiment backed by my latest idea of trying new things as long as my PERs check will stretch cover them.
Then, just as I was deciding how many pairs of pants, tops, jackets I should take to my trip to India, a trip planned eleven months ago (thanks to PERS), I get another email.  Graffiti Grandma has gotten another starred review, this time from Publishers’ Weekly.
Shit.  Just when I thought I was finished with her, Graffiti Grandma rises again.   I get an email from a New York publicist, anxious to help me use this great news to sell my book. I respond, intrigued, and learn that they charge about $6,000 a week for their services, which they reveal that when I explain that I’m a retired school teacher with only PERS to back me.
But then Publishers’ Weekly checks in. They carry advertisements, all shapes, all sizes, all prices, for their starred books. A starred review is really important, I’m told, an important selling point. An advertisement might be okay, I say, since PW sells to libraries and big buyers like Hudson airport stores.  Maybe?  I have a few days to decide if GRGR will be in the Best Books section in November. 
I also have three days to decide how many pairs of pants, which shoes, do I wear a fleece or my quilted jacket, and how does all this fit in a small bag that can’t weigh over thirty-three pounds.  And is a skirt really necessary even if many of our toilets will be the squat variety?
Too many decisions.  I tell my PW guy that I love to write, don’t expect fame or fortune from the activity, that I think I need to develop some sort of marketing plan besides going to retirement residences, and besides, I won’t be here for a month.
My new editor says five pants, five tops.  I’m listening to her–and dreaming of the Taj Mahal in moonlight.. 


So this is what it feels like––to set a goal for oneself and meet it.
I’ve set lots of goals in my life: learn French; stop automatically saying NO to my children; walk 10,000 steps every day; lose the new-baby pouch; learn to wear make-up; stop pronating; be a school principal;  be unenvious of my sister;  become a Master gardener:  build a house with Habitat in Zimbabwe. The list of unaccomplished goals goes on and on, despite the fact that, as I recorded in my personal journal, I truly believed I could do each and every one.
Life intervened. I didn’t go to Paris again, my sons grew up, my knee got iffy, the pouch became a paunch, mascara makes my eyes water, my ankles stayed crooked, I wasn’t hired, my sister’s life isn’t that perfect, I live in a condo, Zimbabwe needs a new government, not an old woman in jeans.
Then, three years ago I set yet another goal, to publish Graffiti Grandma. Self-publish, since twenty agents either said ‘Not for me,’ or didn’t answer my queries at all. My progress, complaints, new skills, depressions were all recorded in this blog, which I called Breakout Novel, A Race to the Finish: .A seventy-five year old novelist chronicles the mulling-over, editing, sharing-with-friends stages of the push to get Graffiti Grandma, her fourth novel, read and then published. This is not the first time she’s taken on this task. Perhaps this time? Or will senility win the race?
The few of you who have followed this long process know that Graffiti Grandma is, as of this month, officially published as a paperback. Kirkus Review, very positive, came in one day before the launch party, which made the champagne and hors d’oeuvres even more festive since my husband made a huge, laminated poster of it and hung it over the table.
As I wrote in my emails to friends, when the book is launched, and so will I be, out of my chair as a marketing executive.  I have met my goal, not terribly graciously, these last months of internet fishing warping both my body and my personality, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not senile yet.  Or maybe I am.  Perhaps that is why tomorrow I will set another goal:  to finish that fifth novel, the one about the old lady who wakes up one Christmas morning lying next to her dead husband. Finish, not publish.
And, perhaps I’ll create a new blog, someday, about the joys of writing just for oneself.  Until then, thanks for reading this one.  Jo

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