Who Do You Think You Are?


It’s my last day in New York and I have pink eye, which is a complete mystery because Tariku doesn’t have it and it’s not like I’ve been walking around Sephora shoving dirty mascara brushes in my eyeball. Now I have to throw out all my makeup, which is about enough to make me have a nervous collapse. Farewell, dear MAC eyeliner. We had a good run, you and I.

It’s been a whirlwind few days. I was mostly here to meet with my team over at Penguin. Because you know that memoir I’ve been working on for the last couple of years? Well, it’s coming out May 5. I kind of can’t believe it.


Here I am with my agent and good friend Alexandra Machinist and my wonderful editor Becky Cole.

The limbo between finishing and publishing can be a scary thing for a writer. Actually, it’s all scary- the first blank page; the mid-point, when you’re sure you’re creating a steaming pile of doodoo; and the end, when the doodoo has magically transformed into a precious beautiful baby in your arms. Most of the time, I feel like I’d rather go take this baby and lock myself in a closet with it for the rest of my life than release it to be judged by the cold cruel world.

But that’s what we do if we want to connect- we allow ourselves to be judged. Sometimes it’s awesome and you find yourself in front of a studio audience chatting with Whoopie Goldberg. Sometimes it sucks and the slut-shaming trolls go bananas on you online, or the mean girl from high school says something shitty about you to your mom at the grocery store.

But the advantage of having done this a couple of times before, is that I now know that even at its worst moments, to put these words on a page and have people actually read them is one of the great privileges of my life.

This is my third book, and I still look over my shoulder every time I walk through the big glass doors of Penguin offices because I’m sure that I’m about to be revealed as the big faker I truly am. I’m convinced I’m going to be arrested by what Amanda Palmer in her inspiring The Art of Asking calls The Fraud Police.

Stop right there, Ma’am. We have it on good authority that you have been masquerading as someone with something to say in this world. Who do you think you are?

I share this with you because I know that the fear of being exposed as a fraud is a very common experience. I might even venture to say universal, if my writing students are any indication.

As Scott likes to say, “Just what exactly needs to happen before you’ll finally feel successful?”

The real question is, “Just what exactly needs to happen to make you feel worthy?”

Worthy not of my success, even, but of the few square feet of sidewalk I’m standing on. Worthy of this ordinary human experience, with all of its joys and suffering.

The answer definitely doesn’t hinge on this book. It’s a far deeper issue. But the fact that I have finished something, in spite of being hotly pursued by my imaginary fraud police, is a start.

Who do I think I am?

It changes all the time. A snapshot of this evening’s answer, as I look out over this dazzling city, looks something like this:

I think I’m a child of God. I think I am both animal and spirit. I think I am you and you are me and we’re all part of the same buzzing electrical generative crazy planetary thing. I think I’m a mother and a wife and a daughter and a friend. I think I’m a writer.

Who do you think you are?