Post-Traumatic Ugliness Disorder/My Greatest Fear As An Author

The lovely ladies of Parenthetically Yours have started a vlog channel where they talk about writing stuff. Gina posted a video last week about our fears as writers. It's funny. You should watch it. In fact you should watch all of the videos. Especially ones by Megan.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what my own author fears are. I've worked through most of them but a new one has raised its un-manicured hand and now that it's in my face, I have a hard time not thinking about it.

All right, here we go.

(As with most of my musings, there's a little backstory for context but I swear that it comes full circle in the end.) 

Many years ago, I suffered from an addiction to post-secondary education. Yes, I was one of those people who didn't want to leave the warm and fluffy place otherwise known as The University Campus. No real world for me, thankyouverymuch. I loved talking about things in theoretical terms and being praised for thinking outside the box. Of course, having only ten hours of classes a week was nice and it was extra awesome when I could organize my schedule to have Fridays or Mondays off. I mean...err...I love to learn? 

Being a compulsive student, I often imagined what my collection of diplomas would look like. I just love seeing my name on fancy things (who doesn't) and, when I learned that I'd landed on the Suma Cum Laude list - on the day of graduation - I daydreamed about how extra-fancy my diploma would be while the guest speaker talked about whatever (for the record, everyone gets the same diploma, regardless of academic standing....boo). But when I saw it for the first time, I almost passed out. Mostly because it was the prettiest thing my name had ever been on. 

Loves loves loves. 

After the graduation ceremony, there was even a framing booth set up where you could get an embossed matting. Ballin'. 

Naturally, when I completed my Master's degree, from a different university, I figured that the diploma would be even better than the one I got for my Undergraduate degree. I mean, this was a Master's degree, which is serious biz, right?


Oh, so wrong.

Side Story: That degree was the longest two years of my entire life. Mostly because I freaking HATED the university. The program was nothing like I was told it would be and it was essentially a big fat waste of time. Although, I did meet one of the funniest guys ever, so there's some solace in that. 

Anyway, I put in my time and took many classes unrelated to my thesis because nothing else was available worked my ass off to graduate on time.

Side Story #2: My class was made up of pretentious douche-bags (for the most part) and they nicknamed me the "Non-Grad," meaning that they couldn't believe I'd gotten into the program. I blame the sundress I wore during the meet-and-greet that, in retrospect, showed slightly too much side-boob. It was downhill after that. But, at the end of our second year, I was one of only two students to actually graduate on-time. Take that, douches!

So, with my thesis completed, and after surviving an hour-long defence, I headed back home. Home, at the time, was about five hours away and since I couldn't have been less invested in the university, I wasn't interested in traveling back for the graduation ceremony and therefore checked the "send my diploma in the mail" box on my graduation form. 

A few months later, it arrived. The Remix and I were going out for dinner and picked it up beforehand, at the post office. I waited until we were in the restaurant to open it up, eagerly anticipating the glory that would be my Master's degree. 

This is what I saw:

After a brief brain-explosion, I promptly burst into tears. In the red plastic booth of a 50s style diner, packed with people. The Remix didn't quite know what to make of my ridiculous overreaction insane meltdown behaviour.

"It's so ugly," I wailed into my half-finished giant burger.

"What do you mean?" he asked. "It looks fine."

"FINE? It shouldn't look FINE. It should look BEAUTIFUL! CLASSY! This is the worst thing I've ever seen!"

"Just put it back in the envelope and finish your fries," he said, knowing that diverting my attention towards deep fried food was the best way to calm me down. Which it did. Momentarily, anyway.

When I got back home, I called the graduate assistant from my department. Let's call him Phil. So, I called Phil to tell him how disappointed I was with the diploma. After he assured me that I wasn't being punished for not attending the graduation ceremony, he gave me an email address to contact the people responsible for designing the POS diploma. They wrote me back saying that I could purchase a "display diploma."

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!? I raged at them after finding the phone extension. "I've already paid you THOUSANDS of dollars, including FULL-TIME tuition while writing my thesis and you want me to pay MORE? Don't you want your alumni to be PROUD of where they earned their degree? I could make a better version of this thing on my computer RIGHT NOW."

"Um...so do you want to order one?" 

*passes out due to extreme frustration*

Blah, blah, blah, at the end of the day, they refused to send me one for free. I even contacted the president of the university with a well thought-out argument on why ALL students should get the pretty "display" diplomas but he wasn't interested either. You can see why I didn't quite fit in there, right?

So what does that mean for me as an author? Well, it means that I'm TERRIFIED of having this happen to my books. While doing my agent/query research, I learned that it's publishers who decide on the covers - and titles - of the books they publish. Authors pretty much have zero control, unless you're Marian Keyes or something (which I'm not).

What if I hate my cover? What if I hate my title? What if I have Cover Envy? I already suffer from Food Envy on a bi-daily basis, but Cover Envy would be the absolute worst.

Side Story #3: Food Envy happens when you're eating something and then see something that someone else is eating that looks way better than what you have, thusly destroying your meal because whatever's on your plate suddenly doesn't taste as good. 

Yeah, yeah, I know that a publisher's goal is to make money and that they have lots of experience developing cover art but I'm a control freak and that, combined with the Post-Traumatic Ugliness Disorder I acquired after seeing my Master's diploma, has me waking up in the middle of the night from dreams of black-and-white covers with sad font and no sparkles. NO SPARKLES! Oh, the horror. I want people to take my books everywhere and show them off, like they would a teacup Yorkie or a set of thousand-dollar veneers, but that won't happen if the cover stinks. 

So there you have it, my greatest fear as an author. You might say it makes me superficial and, frankly, I'm okay with that. I'm attempting to break into the big world of publishing where people are encouraged to judge books by their covers. I know that I'm not likely to pick up a book with a cover I don't like, so I think it's a legitimate thing to completely stress-out about. Haha, I kid, I kid.

*pops Ativan*

And to this day, when Carleton calls me for donations, I tell them that I'd be happy to make a contribution once I receive a complimentary display diploma. Needless to say, I haven't written any cheques. 

1 comment:

  1. 1. That is a legit fear. Especially since I suffer from the American syndrome of "new is always better" and every cover that ever came out after mine would look "better" than mine.

    2. I hate your university on your behalf because that diploma is LAME-O. Not the effort behind it, of course, but... you know.


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