“A girl can dream, Eric,” responds protagonist Grace Zacharias during a mostly-whispered scene in a public library in my novel, My Life with Shelley. Grace’s colleague, fellow high school English teacher Eric Hagermeyer, has asked Grace if she thinks the book she’s writing (the fake memoir of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley) is publishable. A few minutes later, after sneaking a peek at her manuscript, Eric asks, “Was Mary Shelley really such a—pardon me—bitch? And such a ginormous snob?” Grace, whose left leg is in an immobilizer, and who will have surgery the next day, doesn’t take Eric’s constructive criticism well.
Whether My Life with Shelley will ever be in print is unknown, but, like Grace, I dream, especially in bookstores, especially when traveling. Something about being in the famous Strand (“Eighteen Miles of Books”) in New York, or an airport book shop branch such as The Tattered Cover in Denver or Barbara’s Bookstore in O’Hare, re-stimulates the wannabe in me, and I browse my way to the area where my novel might be shelved if one of the editors currently considering it jumps on it.
Now that my book is agented, and since I always carry a Sharpie and sticky-notes in my purse, these days I perform a little ritual that feeds my ambition while harming no one. I glance around the store to make sure no employee is nearby and casually remove my office supplies from my bag. I print neatly, affix my message, check my surroundings again, and slip away.