In the story of Cinderella, our heroine must get herself and her carriage home before the midnight bell, when the spell breaks that has turned a pumpkin into a carriage and a poor orphan servant into a lady. In some tellings of the tale, Cinderella doesn’t quite make it in time, and finds herself mixed up with the pulp and seeds as her carriage reverts to its original state. I liked these stories the best as a child, mostly because I can’t imagine explaining that to a prince (or a mean stepmother). Then I would imagine the scene as it played out, with Cinderella explaining: “I’m sorry, I lied about everything and am not a princess, but would you like some pumpkin seeds for your garden? I understand this variety can grow to be the size of a carriage!”
Now, if you search for “Cinderella” and “Halloween” together online, you’re likely to pull up a list of absolutely useless Halloween costumes based on the Disney animated (or live action reboot) version. They’re cute, but they’re not demonstrative of an actual connection between the two.
But consider: On this particular Halloween––that is, October 31st, 2020––the night between Halloween and a candy-induced migraine of a Sunday is also the night in which we get to celebrate midnight twice. ÂNDˆa full moon. This particular pumpkin patch of coincidences, in which Halloween, Daylight Savings Time, and a full moon. This particular full moon will be the Blue Moon, as it is the second full moon in the month of October, and that is a fairly novel event, which explains the origin of the phrase “once in a Blue Moon” to describe an event that is rare. It’s kind of weird, but it’s also kind of amazing. What a year, right?
Halloween is an astronomical celebration. It is a cross-quarter moon, which I am just beginning to wrap my head around, that falls roughly halfway halfway between equinox and solstice. But don’t trust me, trust diagrams from the great and wonderful Internet full of amateur astronomers!:
There’s a lot of fun science behind this astronomical event, one definitely worth celebrating (maybe even in a Cinderella costume). It is also, of course, considered something of a spiritual event, with both its lovers and its haters due to its pagan origins. Of course, a person could say the same thing––that there’s a lot of fun science behind it––about each of these things: the Blue Moon, a full moon on Halloween, and Halloween as a cross-quarter event.
Perhaps this is just me connecting the dots between two very different things, but I always think of Cinderella around Halloween, mostly because of that iconic pumpkin carriage scene. If there was indeed a ripe pumpkin on the vine the night that Cinderella’s fairy godmother transformed her into a high-status lady for the prince’s ball, then the events in the story may very well have happened on Halloween. There’s a shared wistfulness and aspiration behind the story of Cinderella and the stories of modern day trick-or-treaters (or since this is 2020, those folks who dress up for the day even though it’s difficult to go door to door safely in some areas due to COVID-19).
They are aspirational because they reflect some larger than life passion or desire. For Cinderella, that desire was to be seen for who she was inside and not be defined by her poverty. For many trick-or-treaters, often it reflects someones or somethings that they find interesting and compelling enough to put on as a costume. (Unless you’re an infant, in which case, it reflects your caregivers’ passions.) Kids dress up as superheroes, first responders, heroes and villains from any number of shows and movies and books––and they do so because they wish to be extraordinary too, deep down.
They are wistful because so often our lives take us in a different direction from those aspirations. (It’s extremely difficult to find available fairy godmothers these days who are taking on new clients.)
We as writers often feel similar things about the publication process, that it won’t ever possibly work because it’s too difficult, or requires specialized editorial or software know-how, and so forth. We are afraid of still being in the pumpkin as the carriage reverts, and feeling publication as an impossibility that one can only wistfully watch from afar as it happens to other people.
Today, as you go about your final preparations for Halloween (maybe complete with a splash of some Cinderella story), I want to challenge you to see publication as something that is, in fact, within your ability to achieve. This is where you see the connection between all of these different dots. Self-publishing exists for a reason. For many reasons. And unlike Halloween, to become a published author isn’t something that you can only ever be aspirational for. If you ever figure out how to get a radioactive spider to bite you, I want to know your secret. But suffice it to say, most Halloween costumes do not reflect achievable career paths. It’s extremely difficult for Spider-Man to pay the rent if he’s constantly running away from work to do a second, unpaid job of saving people and annoying Tony Stark.
(Yes, I’m a nerd.)
But self-publishing isn’t some remote once-in-a-blue-moon possibility. It exists precisely to get you from your aspiration to whatever the complete opposite of wistfulness is. Celebration of past accomplishments, perhaps? Pride in a job well done, and pride in a dream realized. And it isn’t something that you have to do alone through impersonal computer-mediated steps. Self-publishing as an industry is absolutely packed with amazing people with useful and related skills who are not just happy to talk with you in a casual sense––they’re eager. And delighted to help aspiring authors become published authors, and then to welcome new authors to the author club.
This has been a year of feeling alone in the face of all the things our world is throwing at us. But don’t fall into the trap of including publication on that list. You can chat with your local librarians, your local bookstore staff, the excellent employees of self-publishing companies, and yes, you can chat with me too.
Don’t let yourself be frightened to publish––or at the very least, don’t let yourself talk yourself into a self-fulfilling prophecy of publication being impossible. Get yourself and your pumpkin carriage of a manuscript home (and published) by midnight––and see what kind of wonderful things can happen when you believe in yourself.
You are not alone. ♣︎