Well, today's the day. I went swimming with some friends this morning, and one of them asked, 'What difference does publication day make? You've already had a party.'
This is almost true, except for the fact that people can get their mitts on Wintering now*. Like, actual people who aren't my friends and family. Complete strangers will be able to walk into a book shop, see a copy on the shelf and - if I'm lucky - think, That looks interesting. That's the exciting bit.
This week, as I've found different ways to mark off the days and to celebrate, I've been reminded what wintering means. While I've been on a high, nearly every one of my close friends have been suffering. The texts rolled in as I was preparing for my launch event: sick children, painful separations, illness, defeat, despair. My heart reached out to all of them, and I felt a twinge of guilt for my own happiness.
Life doesn't ever let up, and wintering comes to all of us once in a while. This year, it's not my turn, but last year it was. The people who buoyed me up then need me to do the same for them now. This is the cycle in which we exist. It's not pretty, it's not fair, and it's often scathingly unpleasant, but it's also what it means to be human. Together, we form a kind of chain that stretches across time. We're all interlinked. It's how we survive.
When I first pitched Wintering, I said that I wanted to write a book that you could press into a friend's hands in a time of crisis, and know that you've given them something soothing and real. I wanted to write self-help without the platitudes or the bland implication that there's one way to do it, or that it's your fault if it doesn't all work out. I wanted my writing to form a contemplative journey, to open up questions rather than give out answers, to be companionable rather than didactic. I wanted readers to feel seen, but to help them to see past their present torments, and into the shape of life, the movement of the seasons, the epic narrative arc of our existence.
But most of all, I wanted to introduce a new word to the language - or not actually a new word, but a new meaning. I wanted to offer a kind of key that opened up a common experience, letting people name a phase of life that's so often hidden. And, sure enough, I'm already hearing it spoken back to me: 'I think I'm wintering at the moment,' people tell me. 'I'm right in the middle of a winter myself.'
So that's my hope for Wintering: that it will help its readers to voice their heartbreak, and make some cracks in the ice of that most desolate season. And that, when their winter thaws, they'll pass on what they know.
All good wishes,
*Except for all you lovely American friends - you'll have to wait until the Riverhead edition in November, but it's worth it. I have the proofs on my desk right now, and they're beautiful.
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