I’m happy to start 2012 off with some great news: The response to my post about Rania’s family was overwhelming! Because of your kindness, and the generosity of many people who read about Rania’s story on my blog or on Mondoweiss, we were able to meet all of our goals.

The new kitchen

Most excitingly, their house is being finished as we speak. It will be livable in a matter of weeks. There’ll be a few minor things to add or improve once the main construction is finished, but the important thing is that the family no longer has to fear homelessness.

It has done wonders for their state of mind. Rania’s husband is more relaxed, much kinder and less coiled with stress. The kids can feel the change in atmosphere, and when I talk with the family on Skype, they’re like a different family. Full of hope, optimism, happiness. Working on their house has made them almost giddy.

We also have living expenses covered until summer, and the money will help pay down a huge chunk of their debt. And it’s all thanks to you.

Thank you. So much.

(UPDATE: There is one small wrinkle, unfortunately. In the course of building, they realized they would not be able to paint the inside of the house until a leak in the roof is fixed. This will cost about $850 extra. So if you’d like to contribute to that fund, please do! It will be much appreciated. One easy way of donating is to buy my book in February, when I’ll be donating 20% of the proceeds to the Roof Fund. The eBook is only $2.99. Feel free to tell your friends as well!)

There are many more reasons to be excited for 2012. As you know, I spent the better part of last year promoting my book in every way I could think of. Marketing is not something I enjoy, and often you have to work for a long time before the cumulative efforts reach critical mass and a thing takes off. Some things never quite take off.

But several possibilities are up in the air now. An Emmy award-winning producer/filmmaker is reading my book and considering adapting it to film. A stage producer in New York is considering it for a stage adaptation. Two amazing women are considering me for ghostwriting their memoirs. A Slovenian publisher wants to publish my book in Slovenian. Another filmmaker is considering me for a consultant role in some films about Palestine.

Some of those might actually happen, others are far less certain. But the possibilities are exciting.

Of course my main goal — making my book a bestseller and changing American public opinion — has not yet been realized. Last year went quite well, given than I’m published independently. But like many beginners, I set my goals high and fast, and there’s been some adjustment to reality going on. I still have high hopes, but I’m no longer letting them quietly drive me crazy.

It’s a good thing, because my new agent sent my book off to 12 publishers last month, and eight have come back so far without making any offers. Here’s a typical rejection:

“I had a chance to read Pamela Olson’s memoir over the break; what an interesting story! She’s experienced so much and been so brave and open to new adventures. That said, I’m afraid I have a tough time seeing the break out potential of a book like this at a commercial house… I worry that the content just won’t appeal on the mass scale we need in order for me to acquire it.”

Sigh. Given the general tastes of the ‘mass scale’ these days, I should probably take it as a badge of honor. (Checking out the Amazon Top 100 list is always an exercise in facepalming.)

Then again, you tend to get the audience you expect. If you market to your audience in a respectful way, as if they might enjoy something different and enlightening rather than the same old 17 Day Vampire Football Jesus Diet Games, well, publishing these days might not resemble genetically-modified mono-crops.

I was heartened to see an interview with George Lucas on the Daily Show this week. He said no one would make or distribute his film Red Tails because no one knew how to market a smart adventure film with an all-black cast. He had to finance and distribute it himself.

George freaking Lucas couldn’t get a backer for his slightly-unorthodox film? It made me feel just a wee bit better about my heretofore lack of support from the Guardians of Pop Culture.

In any case, I’ll be giving a reading on Monday, January 30 at the Half King, a Chelsea bar that hosts authors on Monday evenings. Most of the authors are big names with best-sellers, and I’m still not quite sure how a friend of mine managed to get me on the calendar. But it falls near my birthday, so it will do double duty as my birthday celebration as well. You are all invited, of course!

In early February, I’ll speak on a panel at the Penn BDS conference, about the ongoing campaign to boycott Israel in various ways until it obeys international law, similar to the anti-Apartheid campaigns of the previous generation. If you plan on being there, I look forward to seeing you!

My little sister is getting married in the Bay Area on September 1 (Congrats, sis!), and in late September I’ll be speaking at the Friends of Sabeel Conference in Albuquerque. (Sabeel is a pro-justice group founded in Jerusalem by a Palestinian Anglican priest, Reverend Naim Ateek.) My ten-year college reunion (yikes!) will follow shortly after that, if I can afford to travel again by then.

Meanwhile I’ve signed up for six weeks of ballet lessons, in line with my resolution to dance more this year. Belly dancing may follow after that. I have ideas for three more books to write, aside from the book-length Epilogue to Fast Times. Enough to keep me busy for a few years no matter what else happens.

I’ve also been offered a job working on a nationwide campaign to stop military aid to Israel. I’ll let you know more about it as it becomes public. Part of my mission is figuring out how to appeal to Red-Staters and others who would never call themselves ‘liberal’ but certainly wouldn’t support oppression of innocent people (including many Christians in Jesus’ birthplace) if they had all the facts. If you have any ideas, I’d be delighted to hear them.

A lot to look forward to, a lot to do — can’t ask for much more than that.

Hope to see you all along the road somewhere.

Much love,

Book: amazon.com/dp/0615456243
Blog: fasttimesinpalestine.com
Website: pamolson.org