|photo via @amyadventures_|
“Laura,” my brother said, reappearing after a brief absence. “Dad’s taken all your mates to the pub. You might… well. Come on.”
I understood the spaces between his words but I didn’t want to leave. Because. Because, if I left it would be over, and it was everything I wanted it to be – had dreamt it would be, for farther back than I can remember – and to stand there, just a few moments more, meant it was still happening. I was still on the third floor of Hatchard’s Piccadilly, booksellers to the Queen, surrounded by piles of a book that I wrote. If I lingered a little longer, I was still at my book launch.
I don’t know what I am proudest of, the book or that one hundred separate bodies approached me over the course of the night to say, “Wow. You know so many incredible people!” That is true – I do know so many incredible people. I know so many incredible people that the girls from the publishing house told my parents, book parties aren’t normally like this. There’s not normally this much life. I was humbled and in awe at the calibre of generous, kind, genuinely-excited-for-me people in that room. The way they all made friends with each other and laughed and clicked glasses and, if I’m honest, glanced in my direction a lot, looking at me from the other side of the room, letting me know yes, you! We’re talking about you!
It’s a dark bookshop, stretching back and around and up and down. I was embarrassed when we got there, faltering over my words as I said, “Excuse me, but where is…?” I couldn’t say my party. Instead I said, “Where is tonight’s event, please?” I had to use the toilet first. I always have to use the toilet first. I’d arrived with my parents and my housemate and my two friends and they went on ahead and I did a double-take at the pile of my big pink hardback at the till. I knew they’d put it there for the launch. And yet, then I saw it again, beside the bathroom in the basement beside Shrill and The Sleep Revolution and something very impressive by Richard Dawkins. Three copies, on the end, piled one on top of the other. My book. It was then that it hit me.
What I’d been most worried about is that there wouldn’t be enough prosecco. My people can drink. I coyly managed everyone’s expectations, I think, laughing that book launches are a quick hour of warm white wine, soggy crisps, and an inarticulate speech from the writer, but we didn’t do it that way. Everyone had a glass that was seemingly bottomless, such is the magnificence of the BECOMING team, who circulated and refilled and insisted and went back to get more. It was hot in that room – too hot, and everyone was such a good sport about it – and I’d forgotten that a film crew would be there, from the French version of the BBC, and this Parisienne producer introduced herself and told me how grateful she was that I’d allowed them to come and film for their documentary about the “Bridget Jones's” in the world of publishing, how about four million people would see it in France and Germany, and my best friends in the whole wide world were like, “Laura? What the actual fuck is happening?” I didn’t know any more.
My editor said amazing things to the crowd and it made me get all I don’t know where to look, and then Ella, my agent, said amazing things to the crowd, and the thing is Ella and I have been on such a journey this past year (a year! Has it really only been a year!) and to me she is the stoic one. The reasonable one. The quiet, unassuming boss-like one who is the strength we both need. It’s understandable, then, that when she started to sob – not cry, but sob, from the throat – I was bollocksed. That was me done. Sod that it was my turn to say something profound and full of gratitude next, I stood before the ones I value most and said, “I’ve wanted this for ten years… I can’t believe…” And then I needed a minute to collect myself, which was just as well really, since everyone else was crying too.
They sat me behind a desk in case anyone wanted me to sign their book, which is ridiculous because who would want me to sign their book? Alice tapped me on the shoulder at some point, and said, “Laura… you’re chatting with everyone quite a lot but -- did you know there is a queue?” Only then did I see that I had a hundred books to sign. I did it in pink pen, noting only to myself how hard it is to write properly when your signature is at angle of 320 pages high.
We actually got kicked out of the bookstore, we ran so late. And then afterwards, at the pub – the pub where dad was insisting on buying everyone’s drinks, and I let him be a bit obnoxious because I think he was overwhelmed and really, really proud – well, they kicked us out of there too. We outstayed our welcome at the Queen’s bookshop, and then we outstayed our welcome at the Red Lion, clinging on, clinging on, clinging on, for just one minute more. One minute more of the night the writer became an author.
check out the #thisismybecoming hashtag on Insta to see all the photos from the night!