What is the measure of success for writers? How do we know when we’ve “arrived” or achieved a measure of success that is worth noting?

I’m thrilled to welcome my friend and fellow author, Patrice Gopo, back to Five Minute Friday with a beautiful reflection on the question, “What is Book Success?” 

Patrice’s essay collection, All the Colors We Will See: Refections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, recently released, and she is graciously giving away a copy of her book to one reader!

Learn more about how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

Affiliate links have been used in this post.

Here’s Patrice: 

measure of success

Photo credit: Patrice Gopo

 

 

What is Book Success: A Rumination in Four Parts

By Patrice Gopo

I.

In early July a friend at church tells me she’s finished reading an advanced copy of All the Colors We Will See. “I just loved it,” she says as we give each other one of those deep, authentic hugs. Her sweet words of affirmation pour forth like the gush of a waterfall. I soak in this and feel the corners of my eyes begin to water. We stand in a church sanctuary, the sounds of people catching up on their week as background noise, the warmth of sunlight on my arms a sign of a vibrant day. She speaks in the language of specifics: my Alaskan home, the story of my husband and me, the experience reading Huckleberry Finnin high school. And she speaks in the language of something larger. “This was your story. You give me courage to tell mine,” she says.

And these are the words I take with me when we hug good-bye and continue into the rest of our day.

 

II.

In late June, the morning after I gave a reading at the God’s Whisper Farm Writer’s Retreat, a white woman sits next to me as others begin to return the barn to its typical order. We had only moments before sat in a circle and shared about our weekend. Now people pack up the plastic chairs and move tables where they need to go. We prepare to say our farewells. But this woman and I sit in our chairs in this barn in rural Virginia. She tells me about the conversation her family had last night because of an essay I read. “Your words,” she says, “Give us entry points into discussions we need to have.” I hear what she says. I respond to her comments. After a drizzly, damp weekend, the sun shines this morning in full force.

Words can do this, I think. That truth gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.

 

measure of success

III.

The night before at that same farm in rural Virginia, I read excerpts from my book. I read about Alaska. I read about finding my group in college. I read about placing my daughter on her great-grandmother’s bed. Moments after I finish answering audience questions, a woman approaches me and shares a quick sketch of her own story. We share moments of overlap as black women finding our places of belonging, our moments of fit. To converse about these stories, to let them live and breathe and exist, this is to affirm the importance and value of the particular journey we’ve lived. I think my written words whisper, or perhaps they shout, “Your story does not live in the realm of isolation. It is part of many.”

 

IIII.

Last summer, just before I turn in the first draft of the manuscript that will ultimately become All the Colors We Will See, my father and I sit on my front porch. He has read my manuscript in its entirety. We chat as we watch the sun creep closer to our shade and the occasional car rush past. He leans back in his chair, and I sit cross-legged on the couch, waiting for feedback and comments and places where I need to fix a forgotten detail. But that is not what happens. Instead, we sit in the shade that still feels summer hot, and we talk and we talk and we talk. We talk about being a black family. We talk about living in predominantly white communities. We talk about racism and society and the things that are lost. We talk for a long time about the book and beyond the book too. We talk about what could make this world a better place.

And it is there, on that lazy summer day, birds fluttering about, tree branches occasionally moving with the breeze, it is there that I begin to daydream. I imagine people seated on couches and chairs, conversations happening just like the one I share now with my father. I think to myself, “If this book could do that for others, this would be success. This would be success.”

 

Related Posts: 

FMF Link-up :: Way {Guest Post by Patrice Gopo}

All the Colors We Will See :: Book Review

 

Patrice Gopo

Patrice Gopo is a 2017-2018 North Carolina Arts Council Literature Fellow. She is the author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, an essay collection about race, immigration, and belonging. Her book is a Fall 2018 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Please visit patricegopo.com/book to learn more.

Website: www.patricegopo.com
Facebook: @patricegopowrites
Twitter: @patricegopo
Instagram: @patricegopo

 

 

Enter to win a copy of All the Colors We Will See by using the Rafflecopter widget below!
Giveaway closes Saturday, September 1st at midnight EST. Winners must have a U.S. mailing address to qualify.

 

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